Changes to the way the UK’s railways are run are necessary for the future of the rail industry. However, benefits to the rail passenger should not be allowed to marginalise rail freight, warns the Freight Transport Association (FTA).
The £1 billion of savings identified by Sir Roy McNulty in his interim value for money study of the rail industry are designed to ensure the long-term health of the industry. However, FTA has identified some causes for concern in the initial report.
Christopher Snelling, FTA’s Head of Rail Freight, said:
"Sir Roy’s report is to be welcomed in general, but there are certain issues that will need to be resolved if rail freight is not to lose out from these changes. Firstly, the concept of integrating infrastructure with passenger operations sounds alarm bells as this will surely focus on just passenger needs, which could lead to second class service for freight.
"We are also concerned about the notion of regionalising Network Rail. FTA members already experience difficulty in other European countries where they have to work with multiple regional infrastructure managers to operate a service across the country. Unlike passenger services, which can be regionally focused, freight works when it travels across the country. It therefore needs to access the network through one simple GB-wide system."
FTA supports efforts to reduce costs in rail operations. However, as the minority users of the network, freight needs to be protected from being overwhelmed by passenger interests. This is vital if more businesses are to be encouraged to make rail part of their supply chain.
FTA has made a formal submission to the study and has had further dialogue with Sir Roy and his team. FTA will continue to submit further thoughts as the study’s emerging thinking develops over the coming weeks.
"Unless rail freight is valued properly then these cost savings could come at great expense to rail freight and restrict the number of businesses that are able to make use of rail as a cost effective, environmentally-friendly and reliable alternative to road."