The Freight Transport Association has written to Network Rail to state the importance of reducing infrastructure access costs for freight in its Strategic Business Plan (SBP). This is against the background of the Office of Rail Regulation's (ORR) initial assessment that Network Rail has scope to improve efficiency by at least 30 per cent to make delivery of the plan more affordable within Government funding available. Network Rail is due to publish its updated SBP in response to ORR's assessment on 3 April.
FTA stressed that this cost reduction is absolutely vital to ensuring the future of rail freight and its retaining and gaining business, retaining existing customers and attracting new customers presently not using but considering rail as a part of their logistics solutions.
FTA's Rail Freight Policy Manager Chris MacRae said, 'The key issue in this is the cost of delivering the network. We support ORR's assessment that stresses the need for Network Rail to improve efficiency by at least 30 per cent. This is in line with other European railway infrastructure managers and is essential to make the plan more affordable within the funding available.
'Cost reduction in infrastructure access is absolutely vital to ensuring the future of rail freight and its gaining new business and attracting new customers presently not using but considering rail as a part of their logistics solutions – we must see Network Rail move on this.
'This is potentially a really exciting time for rail freight with Government commitment to freight via Transport Innovation Funding for infrastructure development, and the Rail White Paper's commitment to the creation of a Strategic Freight Network. But it is essential that like the road freight industry, rail continually strives to achieve efficiency gains – this is what the ultimate customers of rail freight need as assurance that the modal choice of rail is and will remain cost effective. Rail freight operating companies exist in a competitive market and have to strive for efficiency – Network Rail needs to do likewise.'
The Freight Transport Association represents the transport interests of companies moving goods by rail, road, sea and air. FTA members consign over 90 per cent of the freight moved by rail and over 70 per cent of sea and air freight. They also operate over 200,000 goods vehicles on road – almost half the UK fleet. The main UK rail freight operating companies belong to FTA as do the major global logistics service providers operating in the European and UK markets.