Today is the second of a planned three train strikes which are bringing most of the rail network in the UK to a complete halt. And more could be to come through the summer.
Dr Jonathan Owens, exert in logistics from the University of Salford Business School, looks at how the strikes are impacting freight services.
Dr Owens said: “The pattern of rail strikes currently taking place is strategic as it is causing mass disruption for both passenger and freight movement.
“Freight traffic, which predominantly runs at night, are now scheduled to run during the day during at a significant reduced capacity of 20-25%, therefore sharing the network with the limited amount of passenger trains in operation.
“Although freight will take priority over all passenger operations, keeping freight moving with no unplanned stops is key, if this stop-start happens frequently across the network this is when we will start see significant delays on the nationally important freight material.
“The UK is very dependent on the rail network which saw 16.87 billion net tonne-km freight being moved from April 2021 to March 2022, which is 1.8% higher than the pre pandemic levels of April 2019 to March 2020.
“According to the Office of Rail and Road some of the biggest users of rail freight are Construction (30.4%) and Domestic (38.5%) which covers areas such as our Food supply chains. Whilst vitally important our petrol and oil freight movement only accounted for 5.5%.
“We have seen from recent history the UK supply chain is fragile, particularly in the FMCG area, and concerned consumers can cause spiking which may cause sudden unnecessary surges in product demand. This can contribute to the expediting of products being rationed as well as not being available. We may see providers being strategic in their product range, particularly if this dispute continues.”