Provision of freight rolling stock market study

This study looked at current demand and supply for rolling stock for use in UK rail freight haulage, and considered whether any features of these markets might indicate there to be the potential for holders of stock who are also active in downstream freight markets to limit or distort competition, either now, or in the future by their control of an existing resource.

The privatisation of British Rail's (BR) freight operations in 1996 led to a concentration of much of the former BR fleet of freight rolling stock (locomotives and wagons) with EWS (now known as DBS). Because of concerns that ownership of the bulk of freight rolling stock would provide EWS with a competitive advantage, potentially acting as a barrier to entry for new entrants, EWS agreed to bespoke conditions within its operating licences, which included providing information about its rolling stock and locomotives.

We recognise that there is a large variety of wagon types, many with specialised functions that are not inter-changeable. Our short study focused on the general rather than the specific conditions of supply and demand. This could, in theory, mean that there are issues pertaining to specific market segments that have not been identified within the bounds of this study.

Our findings

Most new entrant freight operators since privatisation have entered on the basis of new build rolling stock we could not identify from the information available to us in a desk study whether new build stock is purchased by way of a finance or an operating lease we did note examples of purchase by train operators and by third parties such as ROSCOs.

Since privatisation there have been a number of examples of new build stock being introduced into the UK, which in itself suggests an active supply market:

  • For wagons this is mainly served by the Eastern European manufacturers which are often able to supply with lead times of less than 12 months from order to rolling stock entering service. This has been enabled freight operators to win haulage contracts prior to having their rolling stock in place – i.e. speculative procurement is not required. Small orders have been seen to be accommodated in some circumstances and we consider that this would be encouraging to smaller scale market entry.
  • A similar picture has been observed in the provision of locomotives, with a strong preference amongst new and existing operators to use the Class 66. These are produced by a single manufacturer and also appear to be available in small quantities and at reasonable lead times. We have seen examples of these locomotives being obtained on the basis of direct purchase, finance and operating leases.

Conclusions

On the basis of evidence obtained in this preliminary study, the market for the provision of both freight locomotives and wagons appears to be working well. Rolling stock has been seen to be available in both small quantities and in sufficiently short lead times to encourage small scale market entry as well as in sufficiently large quantities to allow smaller FOCs to diversify and expand their client portfolios. We have observed a willingness of private financiers to fund significant investment in new rolling stock for these purposes.

It is our intention to use the findings of this study to inform future licensing reviews.