Rail freight is at risk of being marginalised by passenger rail interests, which could have dire consequences not only for business but for the UK’s carbon reduction ambitions too, warns the Freight Transport Association (FTA).
The leading trade body’s fears came after yesterday’s Sir Roy McNulty Rail Value for Money Industry Workshop and Briefing, where rail freight was classed as a ‘secondary user’ of the rail network.
Chris MacRae, FTA’s Rail Freight Policy Manager, attended the industry workshop. He said:
"With McNulty’s report due in little over a month, it is crucial that rail freight’s needs are not ignored. While changes to the running of the UK’s railways are necessary for the future of the rail industry – with rail costs over 20% higher here than elsewhere in Europe – the importance of rail freight to the economy is not something we can afford to underestimate. The growth in rail freight that the logistics industry believes is possible will depend on the rail network’s ability to provide a high quality service."
FTA is concerned that the ‘marginal’ track access charges currently paid by rail freight as a minority user of the network, may change to a much higher ‘fixed’ cost price.
There is also significant concern that granting greater control to passenger operators over the management of the railway through a process of vertical integration could make freight a second class customer of the network, making rail freight a less attractive option to potential users.
"Rail freight’s future is vital to the aim of a decarbonised transport system, but if companies that currently use road are unable to get the access and service quality they require, they will think again about putting goods on to rail."
FTA have made submissions to the McNulty inquiry and are making representations to DfT to raise the Association’s concerns.