10 February 2000 | Liam O'Brien
Sir Alastair Morton, chairman of the Strategic Rail Authority, has hit out at rail freight firms for failing to meet the needs of shippers, writes Liam O'Brien.
"Rail companies need to ask themselves what they can do to make freight more competitive," the former Eurotunnel boss told a rail industry conference in Brussels last month. "It's not just about crossing borders or satellite tracking - there are improvements to be made everywhere," he said.
Rail freight companies had many frustrations, he said, and managers viewed the business as being about freight on the road challenging freight by rail. "It's not a matter of rail freight competing with road freight, it's about logistics. It depresses me how few people think of it that way."
Morton called for dedicated freight lines because passenger trains are winning more access to tracks. "Carrying freight as a priority would give us a better chance of improving schedules, which is one of the principal ways of winning business. It's not just about cost, it is about when the hell it's going to arrive," he said.
John Harriss, the Post Office's purchasing manager, criticised rail freight for holding up deliveries. "A lot of services are failing to meet the contractual standards," he said. "We can't continue to live with this situation. Our customers expect us to deliver when we say we will."
The Post Office's rail provider is English, Welsh & Scottish Railway.