Freighters feel the shunt

BRITISH Rail's attempts to reduce losses on rail freight are set to lose it a further group of customers after reducing the frequency of its shunting service.

The largest, Railstore, which has a 100,000 sq ft warehouse and sidings in Gidea Park in Essex, said that Railfreight Distribution, BR's loss-making mixed freight subsidiary, was cutting its service from five to two days a week from 25 January. The firm deals solely with the import and export trade, concentrating on paper products.

'We've spent 30 years building up a rail freight business and now it looks as if it will all have to go on the roads. We might as well change our name to Roadstore,' said Gerry Reynolds, chairman. He said that his rail service would no longer be viable because wagons would have to sit idly at his sidings or at the main London freight depots.

A spokesman for Railfreight Distribution said: 'Since the summer Railstore was only receiving about five wagons per week for imports and sending out one and a half for exports. That does not make it viable for us to send out a locomotive every weekday.'

Mr Reynolds said these figures were an underestimate: 'We handle over 400 wagons per year, more like nine a week rather than BR's figures of 6.5.' Mr Reynolds feels that BR is trying to kill off its railway wagon business to concentrate on intermodal containers.

The decision is part of Railfreight Distribution's policy of rationalising its services after losing pounds 119m on a turnover of pounds 175m last year.

However, railfreight users argue that each load that goes off rail leads to higher costs for those remaining and therefore affects the viability of the whole railfreight operation.

Three other companies - Ciba-Geigy and Potter Group in Cambridgeshire and Isis Link at Stratford, east London - will also be affected by the decision from next May.