Facts & Figures

Rail freight is vital to Britain’s economic success. It contributes £870m to the economy and plays a big part in reducing congestion and carbon emissions.

  • The total volume of rail freight moved was 17.2 billion net tonne kilometres in 2016-17. Rail freight columns increased by 60% from the mid-90s until 2013-14 (when it was over 22 billion net tonne kilometres), but the rapid decline in coal traffic means volumes have fallen since then.
  • Freight train movements totalled 224,000 in 2016-17, an average of 613 a day.
  • Rail freight operators have invested £2bn since the mid-90s to improve services. Trains are now faster, more reliable and able to carry greater volumes.
  • One in four sea containers arriving at UK ports is carried inland by rail
  • Each freight train takes about 60 HGVs off the road
  • Freight trains achieve over 95% reliability in on-time performance
  • Every year, freight trains transport goods worth about £30bn – everything from televisions, clothes, whisky and Christmas decorations to construction materials, steel, cars and waste paper.

For the latest statistics produced by the ORR (Office of Rail and Road, check the ‘freight rail usage’ at http://orr.gov.uk/statistics/published-stats/statistical-releases

See also Network Rail’s rail freight pages