UK’s rail freight movement bounces back to pre-pandemic levels

Statistics published by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) in the UK has revealed that the amount of freight moving across the country’s railways has returned to pre-pandemic levels.

According to ORR’s Freight Rail Usage and Performance statistics, a total of 4.33 billion net tonne-kilometres of rail freight was carried across the network during the first quarter of this year (April to June).

This figure marks a 36.5% surge compared to the same quarter in 2020, and a 1.3% rise as against the same quarter in 2019.

Furthermore, despite a fall in performance compared to the same quarters in the last two years, rail freight continued to have a punctuality figure above 90%.

The statistics also revealed that freight operators faced 8.27 minutes of delay per 100 train kilometres during the first quarter in 2021-22.

This figure was 52.8% higher compared to the same quarter in 2020 and 3% higher than the same quarter two years ago.

Due to the commencement of the HS2 work, the movement of construction materials by rail freight companies ‘increased the most’ to meet increasing demand versus the same quarter last year.

Domestic intermodal, including the movement of goods to and from Britain’s ports, witnessed the largest share of freight transportation at 37.9%.

Volumes soared 22.5% since the 2020-21 first quarter, but dropped 3.8% from the first quarter of 2019-20.

ORR said in a statement: “Coal continues its downward trend, reducing by 65.2% compared to 2019-20. ORR also found that freight lifted increased by nearly five million tonnes over the last year.”

In June this year, ORR introduced the 2023 Periodic Review (PR23) process to ascertain the funding required for the national rail network from 2024 to 2029.

Under the process, a five-year settlement was laid down for evaluating the fund requirements of the infrastructure owner, Network Rail and Great British Railways, according to their operation, maintenance, and overhaul needs.

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