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Challenging year for rail freight

Latest Office of Rail and Road figures suggest economic conditions continue to affect demand for rail freight services in the UK.

According to the ORR data, the total freight moved between April 2023 and March 2024 was 15.76 billion net tonne kilometres, slightly higher than the previous year's 15.73 billion. However, total freight lifted decreased by 6% to 69.0 million tonnes.

Intermodal maritime freight saw a slight 0.4% decrease, maintaining a 35% market share. Construction freight increased by 8%, reaching a record high since 1998, with a 34% market share. Metals freight dropped by 10%, hitting its lowest volume since the start of the time series.

Intermodal non-maritime freight surged by 40%, surpassing one billion net tonne kilometres for the first time, driven by a modal shift in the food and drink sector. Biomass, oil and petroleum, domestic waste, industrial minerals, and international traffic volumes all saw declines, with coal volumes plummeting by 83% to the lowest recorded value, reflecting the end of coal imports and changes in national energy security.

Freight punctuality meanwhile, as measured by the Freight Delivery Metric, was 90.3%, marking the second lowest performance since 2013.

Commenting, Robert Girgis, Director of Policy at industry group Rail Partners, said: “Despite the wide consensus on the importance of rail freight growth, now backed by the government’s commitment to a long-term growth target, this data shows consistent freight growth won’t happen on its own.

“Freight companies continue to invest and innovate to deliver for customers even within this challenging context, but to ensure we fully realise the low-carbon and economic benefits of rail freight, it is essential to create the right conditions for growth.

“That means a level playing field between different modes of transport so that freight customers can make the right decision for both their business and the environment,” he added.


  • Supply Chain
  • Road
  • Rail
  • Maritime