The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has hit out at the draft strategy, published by the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA), which recommends reducing freight capacity, reliability and lower performance services. The draft strategy, The SRA’s Specification of Network Outputs, is deeply flawed and the FTA has questioned the author’s understanding of rail freight operations in the UK.
The document’s proposals give clear priority to passenger services, at the expense of freight movement, and recommends imposing closures and severe restrictions on key parts of the rail freight network. Whether moving bulk or high value goods, just-in-time deliveries are as essential as in any other industry, the FTA stresses.
Dr Andrew Traill, the FTA’s head of Rail Freight Policy, says: “FTA represents major users of rail freight as well as rail freight service operators. The rail network must support industry’s logistics needs today and in the future. In our opinion this strategy would not only severely damage industry but would also inevitably lead to millions of tonnes of freight having to be moved by road instead. There appears to be little understanding of the nature of rail freight in this draft strategy, particularly that freight uses the whole of the rail network. Freight tends to criss-cross the country, using sections of the primary strategic rail network but, unlike inter-city trains, seldom sticking to the main lines for the duration of the journey.”
Dr Traill adds: “The SRA appears to be condemning freight to an increased period of speed restrictions and delays whilst maintenance is carried out during week days – just at the time when customers want their freight picked up and delivered. Why should viable parts of the rural and freight only network be discriminated against? Enhancing and maintaining those lines could yield better value for money that might be had through an arbitrary definition of priority-investment lines. This document shows a basic and very worrying lack of understanding of how and why freight moves on the UK’s rail network.”
The Freight Transport Association is participating in Logistics Link 2004, being held on February 3 and 4 and Sandown Park, Esher, Surrey. For further information contact Richard Milbourn on 020 8661 1160 or visit www.logisticslink.co.uk.