November 03, 2014: A deal to transfer ownership of many of Britain's key rail freight sites to Network Rail has been agreed with three of the country's biggest freight operating companies.

The acquisition covers 105 sites in total – 87 from DB Schenker, 15 from Freightliner and three from GB Railfreight.

With freight market growth predicted to more than double over the next 30 years, the self financing transaction of more than 100 leasehold sites from DB Schenker, Freightliner and GB Railfreight represents the first substantive change in the strategic management and development of Britain's rail freight estate in the two decades since privatisation.

It will make Britain's freight sites more readily available to the growing number of rail freight operators and end users, increasing competition and supporting growth in a sector which directly contributes almost £900m to Britain's economy each year and supports an economic output of £6bn.

Paul McMahon, Network Rail freight director, said "This represents one of the biggest changes to the rail freight sector in this country in decades and is a bold strategic move by the industry. It will help drive continued rail freight growth, give customers greater transparency and equality in property arrangements, allow Network Rail to make more efficient use of the network and release capital for freight operating companies to invest in their operations.

"Consolidating the ownership and management of our key freight sites puts us in the best possible position to promote a more efficient and effective use of the rail network by freight traffic in coming years. It will also enable redundant land to be redeveloped and provide a valuable additional source of revenue for Network Rail as it delivers a bigger, better value railway for Britain."

Network Rail exchanged unconditional purchase contracts with each of the three vendor operators on 31 March 2014, with the transactions completed on 31 October 2014.