Who uses rail freight?

Rail freight services are used by a very varied group of customers and they transport a wide variety of products and commodities.

Some of the main customers and examples of the goods carried

Shipping lines and freight forwarders: They sell door-to-door services to importers and exporters so use rail or road operators to transfer the sea containers between the ports and distribution centres, manufacturing plants etc.

Power generating companies: Power stations use rail freight to bring in the coal or biomass (since 2010) which they burn to fuel the generators. Most is transported from the ports, though in the past most coal was carried from mines around the UK.

Oil and petroleum companies: petroleum products, petro-chemicals, gases etc are carried in specialised tanks between ports, refineries and end users.

Auto manufacturers: They use rail to transport finished cars, both domestically and to/from the ports for export/import. They also use rail to bring in both components for use in manufacture and spare parts for the aftermarket.

Construction industry: Trains are used to carry sand, gravel, cement, timber etc for building everything from houses and schools to roads and factories, as well as for huge projects such as the London 2012 Olympics and Crossrail.

Steel: Manufacturers, including the auto industry, use rail to transport steel coils and other forms of steel to/from steel works, production plants and ports.

Waste: Household and industrial waste is carried from transfer stations to landfill sites

Retailers: Major supermarkets and other retailers use rail to bring sea containers full of imported goods from the ports to their inland distribution centres

Fruit wholesalers: They use rail freight services to bring oranges and other fruit from Spain through the Channel Tunnel.

Whisky producers: Much of the Scottish whisky that is exported around the world is sent to the large ports in the south of the UK by rail.

Network Rail:  Much of the maintenance and upgrading of the rail network itself depends on the work of the rail freight sector