In a report published in partnership with Royal Mail and the Co-Op, Network Rail said a growing appetite from shoppers for fresh groceries out of season and retailers speeding up delivery times was having a dramatic impact on rail freight, with 80 more freight trains per week running than at this time last year.
Demand has been steadily increasing over the last decade, with a 75 per cent uplift in the volume of consumer goods travelling by train since 2005.
Network Rail’s director of freight, Paul McMahon, said everything from the latest home technology, to the weekly grocery shop was now travelling by rail:
“The next time you enjoy a chocolate bar with your afternoon cuppa, consider that it has more than likely travelled by train to get to you, and at Christmas when you send a flurry of cards to friends and family, they will join millions of other pieces of mail moving daily by train to get to their destination.”
“We’re continuing to work on increasing capacity for more freight trains, making the network more efficient to allow longer trains to carry more containers, and importantly separating flows of passenger and freight traffic – and our Railway Upgrade Plan is helping to make this all possible,” he added.
According to the Rail Delivery Group, the rail freight industry is now adding over £1.6bn a year to the UK economy and this is predicted to rise to £2bn in 2023 with continued investment.
With UK car manufacturing at a seven-year high and the UK now exporting more than 110,000 cars per year, this is also having a knock-on effect on the rail industry and increasing pressure to transport cars to the docks in Southampton and Purfleet ahead of being exported.
A vast amount of Britain’s post also gets transports by rail freight, with Royal Mail transporting around five million items of mail per day this way.
Royal Mail network operations director Phil Murphy said, “Rail forms a crucial part of Royal Mail’s integrated logistics network, which supports our ability to deliver letters and parcels to over 29m address across the UK.”