An increase in demand for produce including asparagus and figs have helped fill 80 more freight trains a week in the UK compared to this time last year.
New figures from Network Rail show that freight demand has been gradually increasing over the last 10 years, with a 75 per cent uplift in volume since 2005.
Rail freight is also covering an extra 20,000 miles each month compared to the same time last year, with the network investing in related infrastructure, such as port links, to support the increased demand from foreign trade.
In addition, new longer freight trains capable of carrying greater loads have been introduced as well as significant tracks enhancements.
Network Rail’s director of freight, Paul McMahon, said: “We’re continuing to work on increasing capacity for more freight trains, making the network more efficient to allow longer trains to carry more containers, and importantly separating flows of passenger and freight traffic – and our Railway Upgrade Plan is helping to make this all possible.”
Among busy freight routes is a weekly service that transports salad and fruit 1,100 miles from from Spain to Dagenham in the longest temperature-controlled train journey in Europe by a single operator (Stobart Rail).
During this journey, produce is packed into 30 containers and travels via Toulouse, Paris and the Channel Tunnel in a 53-hour journey.
Network Rail praised companies for prioritising rail freight, including The Co-operative, which recently collected an Award for Environmental Contribution after switching products from roads onto the UK rail network.
Justin Kirkhope, The Co-operative’s national transport support manager, said: “Cutting CO2 emissions and minimising environmental impact is a priority and we believe that moving goods by rail is an efficient, carbon friendly means of transporting large volumes quickly.
“Congestion and delays are often less of an issue which supports our goal of exceeding our customer’s expectation for delivery, availability and fulfilment.”