The way you choose to distribute goods will determine the time they take to reach a destination, the associated costs, and the recipient's satisfaction with your service. Rail links throughout Europe and the lower costs of this type of distribution make rail delivery a popular choice.

However, as with all aspects of your business, you must first weigh up whether this is a suitable method for your company:

  • What do you want to distribute? Consider the size, weight, quality and whether your goods are perishable/fragile etc. Size and weight are the two most important factors in costing your delivery
  • How quickly does the product need to reach its destination? This will affect what type of rail delivery service you use. Because trains are not constantly departing to the location you want them to, you will need to time the delivery
  • Where do the goods need to go? Rail links throughout Europe are good (especially now there is the Channel Tunnel) but you may encounter problems if the destination is remote or further away
  • How valuable are the goods and do you need insurance for them?

Also bear in mind that goods need to get to and from the railway station. In some cases this will be automatic (for example, if you are sending something by Parcelforce) but you may need to arrange an additional courier service. Once you have decided that rail delivery is the way to go, you will need to contact relevant companies:

  • Look in the Yellow Pages under 'Rail Transport Services' and call some companies to establish a price for the delivery you have in mind. Give them all the details you noted down from the above points. The UK's largest rail distributor is Network Rail, whose website can be found at www.networkrail.co.uk. Find out if they will provide delivery of your goods to and from the railway station
  • Talk to colleagues and find out if they have ever used rail transport before – would they recommend it. If so, can they recommend a particular company?

Before deciding whether this is an appropriate distribution method, it is worth checking out the other methods available to ensure you select the most relevant and cost-effective delivery system. While transportation by rail can be speedy and safe, there are limited routes and inflexible timetables to contend with.