iPortRail reach stacker loading an intermodal train as seen from the cab side of the locomotive

UK association highlights resilience inside rail freight

What's in your Christmas Box? perhaps a train set. Business is hotting up as the season cools down in this study of reach stacking at iPort in Doncaster Image by iPort corporate

With manufacturing’s annual peak already passed and the retail onslaught of the Christmas and holiday period yet to come, the autumn season is the pressure point for the UK logistics sector. That means a busy time for rail freight, says the association Rail Freight Group. With logistics being a significant part of the UK economy, the science of moving goods around the markets is something increasingly entrusted to the rail freight sector. However, it also comes at a challenging time of the year for operators, says Maggie Simpson, Rail Freight Group’s managing director. 

The association says its members are showing the robustness that the rest of the industry needs to display. Simpson stressed that the necessary forward planning, which drives operations in the rail freight sector, is also driving innovation and a positive outlook. This has helped overcome a short-term slowdown in activity, allowing the UK industry to keep and continue keeping its head above water.

Autumn is the busiest time

The change of seasons always means the railway faces some challenges. However, while the temperatures are falling along with the leaves, the heat is on for rail freight, along with a blossoming of seasonal flows. All those Christmas presents have to get from ship to shop somehow, and that journey begins, as often as not, on the rails, on the back of an intermodal train. “As the late summer heatwave starts to make way for more seasonal weather, thoughts turn to the months ahead and the run-up to Christmas”, says Maggie Simpson, writing to RFG members in their latest membership forum. “For many in the logistics sector, early autumn is the busiest time of the year.”

Portrait of Maggie Simpson the director general of the Rail Freight Group in the UK
Maggie Simpson leads the Rail Freight Group. Image: © Simon Walton.

While talk of the demise of British manufacturing is somewhat exaggerated, it is certainly true to say that the majority of consumer goods are imported. That means that the movement of goods has shifted from factory origins to port origins, with the consequential redrawing of the logistics map of Britain. “Retail goods are imported and stockpiled ahead of the shopping rush later in the year”, explains Simpson. “For rail operators, this combines with a busy construction sector and the seasonal leaf fall service for Network Rail, making the next few months some of the busiest times for rail freight.”

Gift to rail freight operations

Nevertheless, global economic factors have disrupted the supply chain, and within the UK, the added pressures of the cost of living and inflation have suppressed demand for discretionary spending. However, if there is one sacrosanct in the British calendar – it’s Christmas shopping. The high street may feel the pinch, but the online retail warehouses are performing as strongly as ever. “This year, that peak remains somewhat suppressed by the cost-of-living crisis and overall economic pressures”, says Simpson. “The most recent economic figures from the ONS (Office of National Statistics) showed a 0.5 per cent reduction in GDP in July, albeit there was 0.2 per cent growth over the three months to July.”

The shift to online retail – which was underway before the pandemic – continues to grow. The logistics sector has recognised that. Developers are powering ahead with addressing the significant shortage of warehousing in the UK. That, in turn, is a gift to rail freight operations and Rail Freight Group members, with new purpose-built intermodal terminals frequently part of the development plans. “The economy is, at best, stagnant”, concludes Simpson. “I know this is a real concern for all our members across all sectors. However, rail freight has survived previous downturns and continues to show its adaptability and resilience again, with rail freight volumes ahead of last year at this stage and continued strong interest in growth.” All said and done, it may not be a bad Christmas for rail freight at all.

Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is RailFreight's UK correspondent.

Add your comment

characters remaining.

Log in through one of the following social media partners to comment.

UK association highlights resilience inside rail freight | RailFreight.com
iPortRail reach stacker loading an intermodal train as seen from the cab side of the locomotive

UK association highlights resilience inside rail freight

What's in your Christmas Box? perhaps a train set. Business is hotting up as the season cools down in this study of reach stacking at iPort in Doncaster Image by iPort corporate

With manufacturing’s annual peak already passed and the retail onslaught of the Christmas and holiday period yet to come, the autumn season is the pressure point for the UK logistics sector. That means a busy time for rail freight, says the association Rail Freight Group. With logistics being a significant part of the UK economy, the science of moving goods around the markets is something increasingly entrusted to the rail freight sector. However, it also comes at a challenging time of the year for operators, says Maggie Simpson, Rail Freight Group’s managing director. 

The association says its members are showing the robustness that the rest of the industry needs to display. Simpson stressed that the necessary forward planning, which drives operations in the rail freight sector, is also driving innovation and a positive outlook. This has helped overcome a short-term slowdown in activity, allowing the UK industry to keep and continue keeping its head above water.

Autumn is the busiest time

The change of seasons always means the railway faces some challenges. However, while the temperatures are falling along with the leaves, the heat is on for rail freight, along with a blossoming of seasonal flows. All those Christmas presents have to get from ship to shop somehow, and that journey begins, as often as not, on the rails, on the back of an intermodal train. “As the late summer heatwave starts to make way for more seasonal weather, thoughts turn to the months ahead and the run-up to Christmas”, says Maggie Simpson, writing to RFG members in their latest membership forum. “For many in the logistics sector, early autumn is the busiest time of the year.”

Portrait of Maggie Simpson the director general of the Rail Freight Group in the UK
Maggie Simpson leads the Rail Freight Group. Image: © Simon Walton.

While talk of the demise of British manufacturing is somewhat exaggerated, it is certainly true to say that the majority of consumer goods are imported. That means that the movement of goods has shifted from factory origins to port origins, with the consequential redrawing of the logistics map of Britain. “Retail goods are imported and stockpiled ahead of the shopping rush later in the year”, explains Simpson. “For rail operators, this combines with a busy construction sector and the seasonal leaf fall service for Network Rail, making the next few months some of the busiest times for rail freight.”

Gift to rail freight operations

Nevertheless, global economic factors have disrupted the supply chain, and within the UK, the added pressures of the cost of living and inflation have suppressed demand for discretionary spending. However, if there is one sacrosanct in the British calendar – it’s Christmas shopping. The high street may feel the pinch, but the online retail warehouses are performing as strongly as ever. “This year, that peak remains somewhat suppressed by the cost-of-living crisis and overall economic pressures”, says Simpson. “The most recent economic figures from the ONS (Office of National Statistics) showed a 0.5 per cent reduction in GDP in July, albeit there was 0.2 per cent growth over the three months to July.”

The shift to online retail – which was underway before the pandemic – continues to grow. The logistics sector has recognised that. Developers are powering ahead with addressing the significant shortage of warehousing in the UK. That, in turn, is a gift to rail freight operations and Rail Freight Group members, with new purpose-built intermodal terminals frequently part of the development plans. “The economy is, at best, stagnant”, concludes Simpson. “I know this is a real concern for all our members across all sectors. However, rail freight has survived previous downturns and continues to show its adaptability and resilience again, with rail freight volumes ahead of last year at this stage and continued strong interest in growth.” All said and done, it may not be a bad Christmas for rail freight at all.

Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is RailFreight's UK correspondent.

Add your comment

characters remaining.

Log in through one of the following social media partners to comment.