Thursday, March 19, 2020

Rail Freight Needs Staff Classified as Key Workers and Services Prioritised to Maintain Supply Chain

Industry Group Also Seeks Financial Support for Government for Private Train Operators
Shipping News Feature

UK – With every facet of the logistics industry straining their sinews to ensure business as usual to maintain the integrity of the supply chain, the Rail Freight Group (RFG) has written to confirm that part of the industry is ready and willing to step up, but that its importance needs to be officially recognised.

To date, with some services adversely affected by the slowdown in global freight, others are seeing increased demand for domestic distribution. The RFG says its members are continuing to work as hard as they can to ensure delivery of vital supplies for supermarkets and retailers, manufacturers and business, and to support communities across the UK.

As the virus situation progresses the rail freight sector will do all it can to step up and provide additional services and capacity, and the RFG has identified a number of measures which it believes are urgently needed to ensure continued operations. These are:

  • Ensuring that the rail network remains open for key freight movements, and that freight trains are prioritised in operational planning
  • Including all operational logistics employees, including rail freight staff, within the list of key workers, so that such staff can travel to and from work and access emergency school places and childcare, enabling them to continue working
  • Temporary extension of certain competency and medical requirements. Relaxing certain rules would help maximise the number of rail freight staff that are available for duty and minimise the impact of sickness on business
  • Measures to support the financial viability of the private sector train operators and terminals, including:
  1. Temporary changes to the Mode Shift Revenue Support scheme to ensure viability of services, in particular where services are not able to be fully loaded but still convey vital supplies.
  2. Suspension of track access charges to enable freight operators to quickly respond to customer priorities and support critical services that may not be viable in their own right
  3. VAT / taxation and National Insurance deferrals. Mechanisms that support cashflow, including deferral of VAT / taxation and National Insurance payments would support the operators at a time of significant financial risk
  • Continuation of planned infrastructure work wherever possible. Government-sponsored infrastructure work, for example, the Network Rail and Highways England work banks, support the construction logistics sector

The RFG says it is working with its members to press for the urgent implementation of these measures and to ensure that companies can continue to support the people and economy of the UK, and that it will provide frequent updates to this position.

With rail services used more regularly by British ports to convey container freight inland from such places as Felixstowe, London Gateway, Southampton and Liverpool, not to mention the overland route from China, the mode, viewed as a greener alternative to road haulage, is a vital part of the country’s logistics infrastructure.

Photo: Image courtesy of the Port of Felixstowe.