Access for freight operators

The documents contained below provides guidance and the application form for track access by freight operators. Industry standard Model Contracts are included as well as details of General Approvals for track access and ports and terminals which cover situations where you may enter or amend contracts without needing to apply to us for specific approval.

For guidance on how to apply for a track access contract for a passenger operator (including charter and open access) please read our Criteria and procedures for the approval of track access contracts pdf icon PDF, 1,495 Kb (C&Ps).

Potential new entrants to the market should familiarise themselves with our Starting Mainline Rail Operations pdf icon PDF, 455 Kb document.

We advise all applicants to use our model contracts, provided below.

Applicants should note this guidance on how the 2018 periodic review (PR18) will apply to new access contracts.

For international passenger operators wishing to apply for access to operate cross-border services, we have produced guidance on the assessment of new international passenger services pdf icon PDF, 345 Kb.

If you have any questions, please contact us.

Application form

Applicants should use a Form F application form for all applications under sections 17-22A. The form is available below in Word and PDF format:

Model contracts

Applicants are advised to begin with the freight model contract. Further guidance on this can be found in our C&Ps document above.

Freight general approvals

We have powers under sections 18 and 22 of the Act to grant general approvals. The current freight general approvals are listed below:

  • The Freight Access (Track Access Contracts) General Approval 2012. This document is currently being revised, please contact us:
    • enables Network Rail and a freight operator to enter into a track access contract for up to 5 years and which may contain firm access rights for a 2 year period;
    • permits Network Rail and the train operator to amend to their track access agreement, subject to certain conditions without our specific approval. Any amendments beyond those permitted will require our specific approval under section 22 or directions under section 22A of the Act;
    • enables Network Rail and freight customers to enter into a freight customer track access contract which may contain certain firm access rights for a limited 2 year period;
    • Network Rail and a freight operator (nominated by a freight customer) to enter into a freight customer specific track access contract for freight operators; and
    • enables freight operator and Network Rail to make certain changes to the freight operator's existing track access contract relating to liability necessary where the freight operator has entered into a freight customer-specific track access contract for freight operators.
  • The Freight Facility (Ports and Terminals) General Approval 2011 pdf icon PDF, 180 Kb enables port and terminal facility owners and their access beneficiaries to enter into 'approved' access contracts at those facilities under certain circumstances. Potential applicants should read the associated covering letter pdf icon PDF, 179 Kb.

For previous policy decisions and workstreams, please see the policy and document archive.

For previous access application decisions, please see our decisions library or, for decisions in the last six months, the relevant decisions page.