Wednesday, August 8, 2018

While Road Hauliers Sweat Over Brexit Rail Freight Group Proposes Solutions

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Shipping News Feature
UK – Uncertainty for businesses, worried about delays and lost revenue from customs checks after Brexit, could be relieved if new proposals from the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) are introduced. These suggest that the creation of new Railway Customs Areas (RCAs) at rail freight terminals would avoid the need for a single border checkpoint, removing the prospect of congestion on the rail network in Kent and securing the £1.7 billion economic benefits every year it claims are delivered by rail freight.

At present, rail freight inside the European Union operates without the need for customs declarations, but there is a site at each end of the Channel Tunnel for safety and security inspections. Converting the existing site at Dollands Moor in Kent for customs use has the potential to create significant congestion and delays which would disrupt trading and business supply chains, particularly ‘just in time’ manufacturing which minimises inefficiency and lowers costs.

The RDG says that the sector wants to work with government to ensure smooth and efficient rail freight movement after the UK leaves the European Union and avoid disruption to the over 2,000 intermodal trains transporting 1.22 million tonnes of freight per year. Maggie Simpson, Executive Director at the Rail Freight Group, which backs the proposals, commented:

“Moving freight by rail is good for the environment, reduces road congestion and is safer than by road. We’re committed to growing rail freight through the Channel for the long-term which is why we welcome the rail industry’s proposals and support their engagement with government.”

RCAs could provide new opportunities for businesses that import from Europe and don’t currently use rail freight to export, potentially reducing congestion on the road network, with imports through the Channel Tunnel by rail avoiding congestion at a single border checkpoint through the introduction of new RCAs across the country

With investment from the public and private sectors to provide suitable customs security measures at existing freight terminals, the proponents say RCAs could be created to ensure imports reach their destination without delay. This is crucial for manufacturing supply chains as well as drinks imports. For example, car assembly parts are moved by rail to terminals in Daventry in the Midlands and Ditton in the North West, while bottled water from France is imported to Daventry.

A recent survey of 835 exporting or importing businesses by the British Chambers of Commerce and the Port of Dover found that 29% of businesses felt the impact of delays at ports would affect them, while one in three businesses said they are unprepared for new customs arrangements.

As stated over 2,000 trains transported 1.22 million tonnes of freight last year, excluding containers from ships. In the first three months of this year, international rail freight across the channel increased to 100 million tonne kilometres, up by nearly a quarter (23%) compared to the same period in 2017. There is currently spare capacity through the Channel Tunnel for rail freight imports and exports, creating opportunities for more freight to be imported by rail post-Brexit. Paul Plummer, Chief Executive of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents the rail industry, said:

“As we leave the European Union, the rail industry is united in wanting to secure imports through the Channel Tunnel and provide new opportunities for British businesses. Our proposals to create customs facilities at freight terminals support and complement the work ongoing in Government for customs controls post-Brexit and will prevent unnecessary congestion on the railway and clear the way for smooth trade with our partners in Europe.”