UK rail freight may need dedicated tracks

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The UK may need dedicated freight rail lines due to the rising volume of imported coal being moved by train, according to a Network Rail executive.

However, when speaking to the Financial Times, Iain Coucher, deputy chief executive of Network Rail said that apart from the demands created by increased coal transport, the network ought to be able to cope with the expected growth in freight traffic with limited extra investment.

Rail freight traffic has experienced a steep rise in recent years, increasing from 15.1bn tonne kilometres, the weight of goods multiplied by the distance carried ion 1996-97 to 20.7bn in 2004-05. The rise is thought to result largely from the growing dependence on sea-borne imports of coal and manufactured goods. Intermodal traffic has grown consistently from 3.5bn tonne kilometres in 1998-99 to 4bn in 2004-05.

EWS, one of the UK’s leading rail freight companies said: “We believe that there is still lots of capacity available on the network that isn’t being used. Timetables can be better co-ordinated and railway lines should be open longer at night.” They went on to say: “We have to work with Network Rail and passenger train operating companies to improve capacity on the railway network and EWS is already running longer and heavier trains to improve network capacity and to deliver for its customers.”

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