Tips for using rail freight

Moving goods from road to rail can help reduce your carbon footprint. But before you take the idea further, think about the following.

Your sector: The sector you operate in will largely dictate whether moving goods by rail is viable. For example, retailers may use rail to deliver goods to a regional distribution centre but the final leg to store almost always has to be by road. Perishable goods and those that are time-critical may not be suited to rail.

Cost: Recent studies suggest there may be savings in moving part or all of your consignment by rail. You may be able to get a Government grant to help off set the initial and subsequent costs of moving to non-road modes of transport.

Reliability: The advantage of transporting goods by road is that you can calculate delivery times with a certain degree of accuracy. Timely deliveries of goods by rail will often depend on the quality of the rail network and the service provider.

Customer expectations: Rail may be a more environmentally friendly option but customer expectations and a competitive market have conspired to put pressure on delivery without delay, so make sure you understand your customers’ requirements.

Feasibility: Examine your entire supply chain and calculate current costs per tonne moved. Then look at any service level agreements with your customers, consider the location of your depots and delivery points, and work out if there’s a rail distribution hub within a reasonable distance of your customer base.

Consider also the distance between regional and local distribution centres for consolidation and/or storage of goods. Finally, find out from rail service providers about costs, load capacity, time slots and hub dispatch options.

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