The UK’s rail regulator says it is prepared to allow up to 10% of traffic in certain industrial sectors to drift back on to the road network as a result of its new rail access pricing regime.
The proposal is part of the Office of Rail Regulation’s latest five-yearly consultation on variable usage charges and freight-specific charges. The new charging scheme is due to be implemented in 2014.
The variable usage charge is the marginal price operators pay to ensure the network is maintained, while the freight-specific charge is a mark-up currently only paid by the ESI coal (for power generation) and spent nuclear fuel industries.
The consultation document, published last week, proposes extending the levy on iron ore being transported for steel production and hinted that the biomass and “other” coal transport may incur the charge in the next five-year review period.
According to the consultation, rail freight has eliminated the need for up to 6.7 million road journeys annually, and reduces CO2 emissions by 70% compared with lorries.
Chris MacRae, the Freight Transport Association’s Rail Freight Policy Manager, said the proposed charges would send out the wrong message.
“Our fundamental concern is that it sends a negative signal to other sectors, such as retail, where managers are thinking of using rail freight for the first time.
“There is no stated intention from the ORR that these other sectors will incur the freight-specific charge, but this kind of news might make you jumpy if you are on the board of, for example, a big supermarket looking to make a modal shift.”
“Earlier this year, the FTA launched its Mode Shift Centre, aimed at facilitating modal shift to less-polluting modes by shippers of goods. This is vital to achieve national carbon targets, but it only works if rail’s costs and efficiencies can continue on a sustainably downward trajectory to compete with road.”
The ORR will hold an industry workshop on 5 July, where attendance is open to all stakeholders. The can register at www.rail-reg.gov.uk/pr13.