The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has said that the amount of freight being moved across the UK is now back at levels experienced before the Covid-19 pandemic.
The biggest increase came from construction materials being moved for use on HS2.
According to the regulator’s Freight Rail Usage and Performance statistics, 4.33 billion net tonne-kilometres of rail freight was moved across the network in the first financial quarter.
This means an increase of 36.5 per cent on the same period in 2020, and an increase of 1.3 per cent on the first quarter of 2019.
The ORR’s statistics also say rail freight continued to have a punctuality figure above 90 per cent, despite a drop in performance compared to the same quarter in the past two years.
Figures also pointed to an increase in setbacks faced by freight. Freight operators experienced 8.27 minutes of delay per 100 train kilometres in the first quarter of 2021. This was 52.8 per cent higher (i.e. worse) than the same quarter a year earlier. It was also three per cent higher than the same quarter in 2019.
Construction products moved by rail freight companies increased the most compared with 2020 due to high levels of demand for aggregates to fulfil the start of HS2 work.
Domestic intermodal, which includes the transporting of goods to and from Britain’s ports, had the largest share of freight moved at 37.9 per cent. Despite a 22.5 per cent increase in volumes since 2020-21 Q1, there has been a reduction of 3.8 per cent compared with 2019-20 Q1.
Coal continues its downward trend, reducing by 65.2 per cent compared to 2019-20.
ORR also found that freight lifted increased by nearly five million tonnes over the last year.