The role of logistical structure in the development of rail freight services in Great Britain
Modal shift from road to rail for freight movements is a potential means by which the negative environmental and social impacts of such transport can be reduced. As such it features strongly in contemporary transport policies in Great Britain. This thesis examines the interactions between logistical structure and freight modal choice, to determine the extent to which rail's mode share is likely to be increased. The research assesses the influence of recent logistical changes both within companies and along supply chains on mode choice and identifies the likelihood of future changes resulting in greater rail usage. A combined approach involving a postal questionnaire survey and in-depth company interviews was adopted. Further, to consider the interactions between the supply of rail freight services and their level of uptake, original databases of rail freight services at the disaggregated level have been constructed and analysed for the years 1991, 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000. The research thus provides a greater understanding of the importance of modal choice in individual firms' logistical decision-making processes, as well as through supply chains from source to customer. Key logistical issues that have affected, and are likely to affect, mode choice are identified and utilised to assess the potential for rail. Significant potential for modal shift is found to exist though many obstacles are also identified for many types of movement, relating to both supply- and demand-side factors. The importance of a coherent transport policy to deal with these obstacles to allow rail freight to meet its potential is highlighted.