Keeping freight competition on the right track

4 February 2019

By Tom Cole, ORR Head of Competition.

Tom Cole, ORR Head of Competition.Rail freight is vital to the economy. It contributes over £800m a year and the more than 600 freight trains that run every day play a big part in reducing congestion on the roads and cutting carbon emissions.

The ORR’s role includes ensuring there is fair competition between freight operators. Therefore, when we received a complaint from a rail freight transport customer about plans for its eviction from the Rotherham Terminal we felt it was necessary to take action.

Rotherham’s strategic location has contributed to it becoming a key inland hub for the transport of many tonnes of intermodal containers by rail. We considered that the eviction of this key user of rail container transport services could have harmed competition in this important growth market.

We went to work talking to the site’s operator, DB Cargo, and GB Railfreight, (who also run trains from the site). We are pleased that this constructive engagement resulted in a future plan for the depot which will both protect competition for container transport, and balance the needs of other users of the site.

The continuing success of rail freight is in all of our interests, so we were delighted to receive co-operation from all of the businesses involved in this issue. In particular, we are pleased that DB Cargo took on board our feedback about its arrangements at Rotherham and about its internal processes and controls.

This case was resolved successfully with the assistance of everyone concerned. It should also serve to remind industry that ORR will step in to ensure competition in rail markets is protected.