WHO DO I CONTACT IF I AM INTERESTED IN USING RAIL FREIGHT SERVICES?
Our Annual Handbook contains detailed lists of all the rail freight operators and third-party logistics companies that manage haulage or complete door-to-door freight services.
There are two major types of rail freight – intermodal and bulk.
As the name implies, this is freight that is shifted using more than one mode of transport. In this context, it usually means goods carried in standardised 20ft or 40ft long containers which are transported by sea, rail and/or road. In the UK, one in four sea containers arriving or departing from a port is carried by rail. The containers are loaded onto flatbed rail wagons which have been designed to maximise the number of units each train can carry.
Import containers are typically railed to inland freight interchanges and then taken by road to their final destination at a distribution hub /warehouse (sometimes on the same site) where they are stuffed (emptied).
Export containers may come direct from manufacturers or logistics companies which have rail-connected premises, or taken by road to inland freight interchanges where they are lifted onto the rail wagons and then railed the port.
Products include everything from washing powder, confectionery, whisky and toys to auto parts and other components for manufacturers. See Who uses rail freight?
There are also significant movements of containers that do not involve the ports (they are transported from one inland terminal to another). And while 70% of UK rail freight begins or ends in a port, not all of it is containerised.
Bulk products, such as oil & petroleum, coal, grain, gravel, sand and biomass are carried ‘loose’ in specially-designed wagons which make loading and unloading as easy as possible e.g. discharged via doors in the bottom of the wagon as the train moves over a pit.
Breakbulk – is neither containerised nor bulk, although some products could be carried in containers. This ranges from steel coils to cars to concrete slabs and can be carried on flatbed rail wagons or in more traditional freight wagons.
Freight/parcels and especially mail used to be routinely carried on passenger trains and there is a growing interest in reviving this.
Terminals and depots
Both bulk and intermodal goods are often carried directly into and out of customer sites, ports and warehouses. But the industry is also reliant on a network of depots, terminals and interchanges where goods can be loaded and unloaded before being taken on to their final destination.
This includes inland terminals, often operated by third parties, where containers can be taken from rail wagons and loaded onto road vehicles. It also includes sites adjacent to railways where, for instance gravel, cement, sand and other materials can be unloaded and stored for use on nearby building sites by the construction industry.
Rail freight services are used by a very varied group of customers and they transport a wide variety of products and commodities.
Some of the main customers and examples of the goods carried
Shipping lines and freight forwarders: They sell door-to-door services to importers and exporters so use rail or road operators to transfer the sea containers between the ports and distribution centres, manufacturing plants etc.
Power generating companies: Power stations use rail freight to bring in the coal or biomass (since 2010) which they burn to fuel the generators. Most is transported from the ports, though in the past most coal was carried from mines around the UK.
Oil and petroleum companies: petroleum products, petro-chemicals, gases etc are carried in specialised tanks between ports, refineries and end users.
Auto manufacturers: They use rail to transport finished cars, both domestically and to/from the ports for export/import. They also use rail to bring in both components for use in manufacture and spare parts for the aftermarket.
Construction industry: Trains are used to carry sand, gravel, cement, timber etc for building everything from houses and schools to roads and factories, as well as for huge projects such as the London 2012 Olympics and Crossrail.
Steel: Manufacturers, including the auto industry, use rail to transport steel coils and other forms of steel to/from steel works, production plants and ports.
Waste: Household and industrial waste is carried from transfer stations to landfill sites
Retailers: Major supermarkets and other retailers use rail to bring sea containers full of imported goods from the ports to their inland distribution centres
Rail freight offers many commercial advantages to its customers, including reliability, speed and cost-effectiveness. It also benefits society as a whole by reducing harmful emissions and congestion, providing high quality jobs, and helping many regions of the UK to prosper.
Reliability and speed
Rail freight operators achieve 97% reliability on the premium services they run for retailers and, in general, rail freight can match or better road freight reliability. Freight trains continue to achieve higher speeds with heavier payloads as operators invest in better locomotives and wagons.
Rail freight companies continue to invest and reduce costs for customers. For instance, they have increased the payloads they can carry, with tonnage per train up by 80% in the last decade.
Rail freight reduces CO2 emissions by up to 76 per cent compared to road. This helps mitigate the effects of transport emissions on global warming.
Improved air quality
Rail produces up to 10 times less small particulate matter than road haulage and as much as 15 times less nitrogen oxide for the equivalent mass hauled. This benefits the nation’s – especially children’s – health.
Reduced congestion and better safety
Each freight train removes up to 76 lorries from the roads, resulting in 1.6 billion fewer HGV kilometres every year.
Rail passengers kept on track
Rail freight provides specialist services to the track renewal and maintenance teams, keeping costs and disruption to the rail network to a minimum.
Regional growth is supported
Of the 5,000+ people employed by the freight operating companies, more than 80 % are employed outside the south east of England. Rail freight also is vital for the economic prosperity of ports, power stations, production centres and retail centres throughout the country.