British Rail Privatisation White Paper: Freight: Company links road and rail

BR'S FREIGHT business is currently a financial disaster area. The losses of the Railfreight Distribution business are over pounds 118m on a gross income of less than double that. This is partly offset by the success of the Trainload Freight part of the business, which transports bulk products such as coal and petroleum and which made a profit of pounds 67.5m.

The sharp losses of the distribution business seem inevitable given the flexibility of road transport, which is also able to take goods from door to door. The privatisation of BR's freight would, therefore, seem to make the closure or at least running down of this type of service inevitable.

Not so, according to Charterail, a company that is seeking to make use of the relative cheapness of rail over long distances by transporting freight on a combination of road and rail. Created two years ago as a joint venture between BR and the private sector, its managing director, Robin Gisby, says the company has begun to attract business from firms that previously ruled out rail transport such as Safeway, Argos, Tate and Lyle and RHM.

The key, according to Mr Gisby, is the ability to transfer the goods rapidly from road to rail and vice versa using suitable containers and trailers - 'bi-modal technology'. Mr Gisby accepts that the minimum distance to make such transfers feasible is about 200 miles (320km). The company runs six trains a night linking its five railheads in north London, Melton Mowbray, Warrington, Trafford Park in Manchester and Glasgow and hopes to open new railheads in Avonmouth, Wakefield and Aberdeen. It is already taking goods to Orleans in France and will soon also be operating to Paris.

Mr Gisby said savings could be made because 'trains only need one driver and one locomotive, and therefore we can offer competitive prices'.

Most companies using Charterail, based in Cricklewood, north London, are doing so only on a trial basis. Safeway is using it to take wine every day from its depot in Essex to Bathgate, between Glasgow and Edinburgh. Lawrence Christiensen, its logistics director, said: 'The trial is encouraging and if successful could come into its own.' He is examining the potential for bringing wine from France.

Rank Hovis, part of RHM, has also been using Charterail on a trial since last month to transport large bags of flour for milling. A spokesman said that the company 'was pleased with the service and at the low level of damage to the bags, which are quite fragile'.

Privatisation, according to Mr Gisby, will accelerate Charterail's growth and the company will start running its own locomotives. However, he was concerned that the details of the White Paper would ensure 'that costs of access to rail for freight operators stand comparison with those incurred by road hauliers for access to the road network'.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Bafetibis Gomis of Swansea City is stretchered off at White Hart Lane
Jerry Seinfeld Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
peopleSitcom star urges men to be more supportive of women than ever
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
Jay Z
businessJay-Z's bid for Spotify rival could be blocked
Louis van Gaal is watching a different Manchester United and Wenger can still spring a surprise
The spider makes its break for freedom
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Arts and Entertainment
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United player ratings
Life and Style
love + sex
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Freelance AutoCAD Technician

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Freelance AutoCAD Technician is required to ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Order Processor

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This European market leader for security...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Graphic Designer

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Mechanical and Electrical Engineer

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of refrig...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot