Smart Transport

Rail freight optimism for post Covid-19 recovery

GBRF locomotive

A survey of Rail Freight Group (RFG) members has highlighted the challenges facing companies across the rail freight sector – and offers hope that the recovery may not be as protracted as feared. 

Conducted over the last two weeks of April, the polling reveals significant interruption to normal operations with firms highlighting reduced demand and declining customer orders, cash flow concerns, business suspension and interruption and delays in areas such as planning decisions.

  • 54% of those surveyed had closed parts of their business or expected to close soon
  • 55% of businesses had furloughed staff, with 42% furloughing more than a quarter of their staff, and 17% more than half. 
  • Sickness was not a significant issue with 80% seeing sickness levels below 10% in their businesses.

Despite the challenges, there was cautious optimism over the return to economic normality, with 45% of respondents expecting their businesses to recover this year and 71% expecting the recovery to take more than two months.

Maggie Simpson, RFG director general, said: "Rail freight is playing a key role in keeping goods and supplies moving across the UK, supporting the economy and communities. 

"It is encouraging to see that many businesses expect to see some return to normality this year, but this will only happen with continued support from Government and a steady and considered approach to rebuilding business activity.”

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