Letter: Freight trains forced to take the strain

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The Independent Online
IN Julia Clarke's view (Letters, 31 January) British Rail's freight sector would be profitable if it pruned staff and running costs. She seems unaware that both terminal and train staff in this sector have been progressively reduced since the implementation of driver-only trains in the mid-1980s. Most freight trains run with a single driver for most journeys.

As a former rail driver I am mystified about her point that 'miles of 'light' running are done to pick up trains, or to return a driver home at the end of his shift'. The reason for the prevalence of light loco running is the sparsity of traffic. Locomotives cannot materialise on the front of a train from nowhere.

Rail freight is compelled under the sectorisation system within BR to pay high track-use costs to other sectors. These cost problems are the overriding component in rail freights' costs, where typically track costs represent 48 per cent of total costs. Private lorry operators pay 4 per cent of the cost of the infrastructure they use. Selective use of productivity data and axioms about the efficiency of the market consistently ignore these key facts.

John McGurk

Penilee, Glasgow