• Overnight short distance freight service.

  • Discussion about railroad topics everywhere outside of North America.
Discussion about railroad topics everywhere outside of North America.

Moderators: Komachi, David Benton

  by David Benton
One of the reasons often touted for not using rail is the slower speed of rail ( in many countries freight service). We were discussing this in NZ , in relation to the Auckland to Whangarei rail service, around 200 k.m. Road is a shorter route , probably takes a truck for 2.5 to 3 hours. Rail service is around 6 hours. Virtually all freight goes by road , except bulk produce , most destined for export from Auckland. When discussing using rail , most cited the slowness as a reason not to use it . Someone answered , as most is overnight delivery , what does it matter?
I thought that was a good point. Most freight is probably picked up , and delivered to the terminal by 7pm or so. The receiving terminal probably doesn't start sorting and unloading freight till 5 a.m or so, that leaves 10 hours or so for transit. I imagine there are many instances around the world where the same circumstances arise , and the same reason for not using rail are used.
Obviously , there are other factors, the cost of transferring goods from road to rail been a major one. Rail operations tend to be 24 hour anyway , so I don't imagine the need to deliver in the middle of the night been too much of a problem. Though I guess a truck driver does have an advantage here, he can basically park up at the depot and leave , whereas rail generally has procedures needing more than 1 person to go through .
Anyone know of operations where this is happening? I guess 30 -40 years ago it was the norm , what has changed?
  by johnthefireman
Rail becomes highly competitive for regular bulk flows, eg coal, oil products, biomass, aggregates for construction, perhaps mass produced cars from factory to dealers, etc. It doesn't really matter how long these products take to arrive as long as they arrive regularly in enough quantity - in effect it is more like a pipeline than individual consignments.

The value of the goods is also a factor. A wagon load of TV sets or spare parts for a luxury car represent a big capital investment, and industries these days tend to reduce their capital investment by reducing the number of items they stock both centrally and at their end user points, with a "just in time" delivery policy rather than having items stockpiled all over the place. Items in transit represent stock, so the time in transit needs to be cut to a minimum. A wagon load of coal or biomass, on the other hand, represents a fairly small capital investment and is rarely needed on a "just in time" basis.

For the more individual consignments, I suppose there is a cut-off distance. Shorter than that distance (eg the 200 km you mention in NZ), road is quicker. However on congested roads or for longer distances, the train might still be quicker. I think most goods wagons in UK are now rated at 75 mph, and there have been trials using surplus parcels vans to carry smaller items at 110 mph. Lorries can't match those sort of speeds.

In UK supermarkets have trialled using rail on longer routes such as south and midlands England to Scotland. But I think most freight traffic in UK nowadays is the bulk flows mentioned in my first paragraph.