Global Railways Review reports that demand for rail freight services has stepped up significantly since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The transport logistics industry has been working hard across all areas, but rail transport has held some critical advantages, according to the article.
While air and shipping lines have been strained by reduced services, rail transport has been able to supply extra freight capacity, as passenger numbers have reduced. Freight volumes have increased sharply since the first lockdown, with consumer demand for food and other essential supplies such as toiletries and face-masks.
Network Rail, for example, reduced under-used passenger timetables to make way for extra freight trains. To help keep supermarket shelves supplied, they set up two new food routes from Spain to London. They will transport thousands of tonnes of goods, and the service will take the equivalent of 30 HGVs off the road, helping to reduce CO2 pollution levels.
Rail links between Europe and China have also increased significantly, in response to demand for critical supplies such as face masks, protective medical clothing, and medical equipment. According to the National Development and Reform Commission, freight trains on the China to Europe routes transported 1.13 million containers during 2020.
The article also points out that rail services requires less human interaction than sea or air transportation, as there are fewer checks to be carried out. This has made it both a quicker and safer option during the pandemic. All these advantages have led to China-Europe rail volumes increasing by 56% in 2020.
With the increasing focus on sustainable fuels and carbon net-zero environmental policies, rail freight services are set to become more in demand than ever during 2021.
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