Rail freight will grow by 3.3 per cent a year over the next 20 years, according to the latest forecast by MDS Transmodal for the Rail Freight Group and Rail Freight Operators Association.
It predicts that overall volumes will be 120 per cent of current levels by 2030.
The study shows that rail freight grew by two per cent between 2006 and 2011, while intermodal grew by 29 per cent.
The report warns that the growth in traffic will place increasing demands on the rail network and in particular on the major trunk routes such as the West and East Coast Main Lines.
The forecast have also looked at productivity improvements in rail freight, in particular the impact of both longer trains and a move from a 5 day to 6 day a week operation for intermodal trains. Such measures, if implemented would reduce the number of additional paths needed on the network, and, as they would tend to reduce rail costs, would also generate additional modal shift.