Although railway freight is one of the ancient modes of transport that has evolved through time, it has got a share of its own shortcomings. The disadvantages include the following.
First, railway freight can be affected by unforeseen delays in its operations. The delays may be caused due to mechanical breakdowns, adverse weather conditions like snow and ice that may cover the railway lines making rail freight almost impossible. This can be a major setback in the railway transport industry as the delays are unpredictable.
Secondly, another shortcoming is that one has to rely on the schedule or timetable of the railway freight company. If the freight company does not have services for a given day, one has no option but to wait till when the service will be available next. If the service decides to suspend or postpone its activities for a certain period, one will be forced to wait until the services resume. Therefore, the users do not have control over the rail freight services.
Another major disadvantage of railway freight is that most of the customers or users of this service are not located near the railway depot or terminal. They have to travel over some distance so as to reach the service. Most of the services can only be accessed from railway stations or depots and are not distributed. The terminals are found along the railway line meaning that where there is no railway line, there is no rail freight service. This means that the user has to travel over long distances to access the service. This also means that moving from the railway terminal to final destinations is also cumbersome. Accessibility to railway freight thus becomes a problem.
Furthermore, railway freight also has a limited number of carriers for transporting cargo. For instance if the number of coaches is twenty, they cannot be increased and one will have to wait for the next trip in order to make use of the service. This limits the amount of cargo that rail freight can haul at ago. Their transport service is limited to the number of containers that can be hauled at one go.
Moreover, railway freight requires intensive capital investments. Most of the railway machinery consumes a lot of capital ranging from the railway line to the engines. This also means that should there be any mechanical problem, it will require a lot of funds to fix the problem. Such amounts may not be readily available which may end up stalling the railway freight service altogether.
Finally, railway freight has got limited and fixed routes that do not have much connectivity. Connection between two different points that do not have a railway terminal is impossible. Connection is only established where a railway line passes through meaning that cargo can move only along the railway line to a specified destination. The problem is even made worse due to the fact that expansion of the rail network calls for massive capital investment which may not be readily available. This works against the expansion of the railway network.