LONDON Britain's largest rail freight firm DB Cargo UK plans to cut 893 jobs, over a quarter of its workforce, as the industry faces "unprecedented challenges" from difficult core markets such as coal, it said on Tuesday.
The company, a subsidiary of German rail company Deutsche Bahn AG which employs 3,400 people in Britain, said in a statement it would further reduce its locomotive and wagon fleet and revise the number and locations of its operational sites.
DB Cargo UK, headquartered in Doncaster, northern England, operates over 5,000 trains each month including services to and from mainland Europe through the Channel Tunnel.
"We firmly believe in the future of rail freight in the UK," DB Cargo UK CEO Hans-Georg Werner said. "Our new business strategy will ensure we are a perfect logistics partner of choice for customers across all sectors, including construction, automotive and intermodal, long into the future."
The company said the proposals were subject to formal collective and individual consultations, and no final decisions had been taken at this stage.
Britain's RMT rail union expressed dismay at the cuts.
"This is devastating news brought on through a combination of cut-throat practices in the UK rail freight industry and a shocking lack of government support for this key section of our transport infrastructure," said union General Secretary Mick Cash.
Core freight markets such as coal had faced a dramatic decline, the company statement said, creating unprecedented challenges for the rail freight industry.
Coal producers have endured years of pain as prices for the polluting power-plant fuel stayed stuck at unprofitable levels due to global oversupply, forcing them to shut or sell assets.
Since June, however, coal has recovered as China's government rationed domestic output and fuel demand took off across Asia, leading some coal benchmarks to double in value.
(Reporting by Helen Reid, Additional Reporting by Oleg Vukmanovic; editing by Stephen Addison)