Electric trains have become 'too expensive to use' for cargo as price of plane freight soars

Thu 14 Oct 2021
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

Rail freight operators are having to sideline their electric locomotives and switch back to slower, more polluting diesel trains because of the unfolding energy crisis. 

Logistics firms say a surge in wholesale energy prices and an increase in track access charges have made the low-carbon trains uneconomical.

Industry body the Rail Freight Group said a tripling of electricity costs had meant some operators were temporarily switching to diesel as they could not absorb electricity hikes, reports the Independent.

Still greener than road

It points out that even when using diesel locomotion, trains produce only three-quarters of the emissions of lorries.

One of the companies to switch, Freightliner, said it had taken the decision “in order to maintain a cost-effective option for transporting vital goods and supplies across the UK”.

Meanwhile, the Guardian reports UK bookings for air freight services in October have soared 70% as companies, such as John Lewis, look to circumvent port congestion.

Dan Morgan-Evans, group cargo director of Air Charter Service, said early bookings for October would be about double those of last year. “Having so many flights pre-booked at the beginning of the month for cargo is completely out of the ordinary,” he said.

Tactical use of planes

Pippa Wicks, executive director of John Lewis said it had used additional air freight “tactically and thoughtfully” this year to bring in light but urgent goods, such as Christmas lights, because of concerns about port delays.

The Guardian also reports that a UK importer of loungewear with £1m of goods stuck at Felixstowe has no prospect of an HGV driver to pick it up until November.

Smaller companies are being hit hard by port delays and rising costs, the BBC reports. It spoke to toy retailers, a lighting company and a supplier of Harry Potter merchandise who are all facing difficulties with deliveries.