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  • Total tonnage capability

  • Containers at a freight depot

    The network's total tonnage capability is a measure of its ability to handle a given volume of rail traffic.

    The infrastructure elements which, taken together, affect tonnage capability are (principally):

    • Track
    • Bridges
    • Embankments

    Planning for growth

    Understanding the ability of the network to carry an increased tonnage is an important factor in helping you to plan new business on rail.

    In the majority of cases an increase in tonnage resulting from a new train service is well within the capability of the network. In particular, the busy main lines are maintained to a level that enables them to cope with fluctuations in traffic levels i.e. they have 'headroom' in their tonnage capability.

    However, away from busy main lines and in particular on lines with little or no existing freight traffic, it is important not to assume that significant increases in tonnage may be operated readily.

    A misleading assumption

    A misconception which can arise is that because a route will accept heavy axle weights it will accommodate a high volume of such trains. This assumption can arise because of confusion between two separate capability measures:

    • Axle weight capability (referred to as Route Availability or RA)
    • Total tonnage capability

    A high axle weight capability (eg RA8 with special permission to operate at RA9 or RA10) tells you that an individual train service of this type may operate. It does not mean that an unlimited number of such high axle weight trains may operate.

    Obtaining information

    The best way to understand more about total tonnage capability is to share your plans for rail usage with us. This can be done in full commercial confidentiality.

    For new freight schemes please contact the Senior Route Freight Manager for the area concerned.

    A more detailed briefing about total tonnage capability is provided as supplementary information in the National Electronic Sectional Appendix (NESA) .