Freight Specific Charges proposed by Rail Regulator - "A Matter of Concern"

11 Jun 2012
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Despite the positive objectives for transfer of freight from road to rail in the Department for Transport's recent Command Paper, the Office of the Rail Regulator (ORR) is proposing new charges on railfreight. ORR has received advice on the risk of loss of business (and consequently more heavy goods traffic on roads) that might arise from some of these specific charges - aimed at particular market segments e.g. nuclear waste, coal for power stations, iron ore, biomass. However ORR is prepared to contemplate the high risk of a 10% reduction in some types of railfreight.

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Nick Hollinghurst says, "The ORR is clearly putting a small part of its obligation to reduce the need for government support before both larger national objectives on the environment and the declared aspiration of the DfT to increase the move of freight from road to rail. I believe they have got this balance wrong - especially in the light of a number of ongoing freight-friendly track and route improvements. No account is taken of the cost of damage to the environment and people's qualities of life if heavy freight starts drifting back onto the nation's roads."

"It's a typical British public sector approach to a need to cut support and increase revenue - no thought of increasing income by increasing use of the service, no thought of cutting support costs by increasing efficiencies."

"This attitude is in strong contrast to the pro-active developments undertaken by Deutsche Bahn (a German public sector company operating in UK) who have invested heavily in improvements to track and rolling stack on their Chiltern railway franchise. Deutsche Bahn (as DB Schenker Rail) are now the number one rail froeight operator in this country and have shown great innovation and confidence in the future by modifying freight locomotives to run on High Speed 1 (the line to the Channel Tunnel) so that through freight trains can run up from Europe direct to a freight terminal in Barking."

He concluded, "Railfreight is a grossly underused resource. Instead of complacently seeing if a price hike for operators can be forced through for just a 10% drop in business, ORR should be actively promoting the switch of freight from road to rail - as the DfT has indicated it wants! This is a matter of serious concern."

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