Reducing congestion

Source: RTM Jun/Jul 17

New figures show rail freight is far better at reducing congestion than previously thought, writes Philippa Edmunds, Freight on Rail manager at the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT).

The latest figures from the Daventry Intermodal Rail Freight Terminal reveal it has removed 64 million miles of lorry journeys from UK roads in the last year alone, almost three times more than previously thought. These detailed calculations, supplied to us by W H Malcolm, which runs the Daventry Terminal, confirm what CBT has long argued: that the best way to reduce road congestion, collisions and pollution is integrated rail and road planning, not adding ever more lanes to motorways. 

Furthermore, the analysis highlights the role that road/rail transfer points have in expanding rail freight traffic. Strategic Rail Freight Interchanges (SRFIs) like Daventry are important economic generators and show the way the private sector is investing in and supporting rail freight. 

SRFIs are an intrinsic element of shifting more freight to rail, as they enable rail to compete with HGVs by reducing the transhipment costs between the modes as recognised by the government in its National Networks National Policy Statement of 2014. CBT is now calling for the government to follow the private sector’s lead and support rail freight by upgrading the existing network and setting affordable charges to enable rail to remove even more lorries from our congested roads. 

SRFIs offer ancillary services such as warehousing and container-handling to reduce the transhipment costs between road and rail, and make rail freight more financially viable. Daventry Intermodal Rail Freight Terminal employs more than 5,000 people and is forecast to employ up to 9,000 when its new terminal opens. Other new rail freight interchanges are coming on stream designed to create a larger network of rail freight hubs to provide a catalyst for significant new business between the UK, mainland Europe and beyond. Four Ashes SRFI, near Wolverhampton, is currently going through the planning system and Doncaster I Port has a SRFI opening later this year. 

The fact that each lorry removed from a congested part of the Strategic Road Network is equivalent to removing up to four standard cars shows the congestion benefits of rail freight. This is because lorries take up more space, need longer braking distances and are slower to manoeuvre than cars. 

237 DRS RIMG 1419 v3 LQ edit

Road and rail complement each other so it is important that each mode plays to its strengths. Consumer rail freight, which has consistently grown this year, is well-placed to offer the long-distance trunk haul. In fact, government figures show the potential for modal shift to rail as the largest HGVs (5+ axles) make far more longer distance journeys than the smaller lorries. A quarter of all their trips are over 300km so some of this traffic should be captive to rail if there is enough rail capacity. 

Recent DfT-sponsored research, carried out by consultants MTRU for CBT, found that upgrading existing rail lines running parallel to strategic motorway routes would help reduce road congestion and improve productivity. 

The research found that upgrading existing rail lines on certain strategic corridors, which run parallel to the motorway routes and are currently nearing full capacity, would allow large numbers of these lorry loads to be transferred to rail. In particular, it showed that on the A14 out of Felixstowe, the A34 out of Southampton and the M6 it is possible to improve road conditions without needing to add more road capacity. This would help road congestion because of the extra road space taken by lorries. For example, transferring 2,000 lorry loads a day to rail would be the equivalent of taking 8,000 cars off the road. 

Sending more goods by rail has the potential to dramatically reduce road congestion, road collisions, CO2 and NOx emissions, so we are highlighting these points to the government as it plans for the next Network Rail control period and the ORR review of rail freight access charges.




Lutz   11/07/2017 at 00:03

How are these numbers to be corroborated? If there was such a marked shift from road to rail freight, why have we not seen, at the very least, some indicative figures from Government sources? Do the figures just apply to the Daventry Terminal? The reason I ask is that there has been a steady, though low, increase in the number of HGVs on UK roads since 2012, which may also indicate that there has been a steady growth in road freight in that period. The increase in light vans has been far greater. So there may be a shift to rail, but is this a stead percentage of the whole? Is rail-freight growth keeping up with the growth in the total volume of freight and thus preserving its market share, or has the decline in bulk freight on the railways seen a reduction of the overall share of the market?

Nonsuchmike   14/07/2017 at 21:45

My informed guess, Lutz, without any quantifiable evidence to back it up I hasten to add, is that there has been a reduction in freight traffic over the last two tears. This based on me noticing as I was on the way to the Eisteddfod last week that two fully loaded timber mega-lorries were rumbling on their way to Kronospan @ Chirk, whereas just over a year ago I drove back from Chester Oaks along the A483 keeping pace with a long diesel hauled freight train packed full of similar coarse tree trunks also on its way to that manufacturer. Surreptitiously, this administration has driven more traffic onto the road, re-starting a progressive & aggressive national road building/widening/strengthening which the previous Lib/Con partnership eschewed in favour of encouraging greater use of freight on rail.If you have not already spot5ted some, soon we will be awash with 54 ton multi-axle long lorries which will be a death trap to cyclists, unaware motorists & pedestrians, whilst the damage these cause to town, village & city infrastructures will cost millions more to repair per year. Lunacy; sheer lunacy, IMHO. It would also help if some of the firms from abroad that run our freight firms would drag their HR and accounting procedures into the 20th century at least, and maybe, just maybe, try to look as if they know a thing or two about 21st century ways of doing things; they are their own worst enemies, so maybe the road freight services are more efficient in that respect.

Add your comment


rail technology magazine tv

more videos >

latest rail news

View all News

rail industry focus

Network Rail has yet to give an end date for Cardiff electrification

13/07/2018Network Rail has yet to give an end date for Cardiff electrification

Article by Callum Wood of Rail Technology Mag... more >
Tracking the contribution of logistics to sustainability

26/06/2018Tracking the contribution of logistics to sustainability

Andreas Johansson, vice president of the engi... more >

editor's comment

23/01/2018Out with the old...

Despite a few disappointing policy announcements, especially for the electrification aficionados amongst us, 2017 was, like Darren Caplan writes on page 20, a year generally marked by positive news for the rail industry. We polished off the iconic Ordsall Chord (p32), hit some solid milestones on Thameslink (p40), progressed on ambitious rolling stock orders (p16), and finally started moving forward on HS2 (p14) ‒ paving the way for a New Year with brand-new infrastructrure to... read more >

last word

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

This summer, Arriva Group's CrossCountry and the Scout Association joined to launch a new partnership to promote rail safety among young people. Chris Leech MBE, business community manager at the TOC, gives RTM an update on the innovative scheme. Recognising that young people are more likely to take a risk trespassing on railway tracks, C... more > more last word articles >

'the sleepers' daily blog

HS2: collaborate to innovate

17/07/2018HS2: collaborate to innovate

Dr Chris Goodier and Dr Steve Yeomans, of Loughborough University’s Centre for Innovative and Collaborative Construction Engineering (CICE), talk about four new HS2 research projects which are set to challenge how we design, build and monitor high-speed rail projects. No one doubts that HS2 must provide a platform for innovation, bu... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >


Transforming travel in the north west

06/02/2018Transforming travel in the north west

RTM’s Josh Mines talks to Robin Davis, head of new trains at TransPennine Express (TPE), about the huge rolling stock change journey the co... more >
Thameslink: Nearing the end of the line

23/01/2018Thameslink: Nearing the end of the line

RTM’s Josh Mines catches up with Mark Somers, project director for Thameslink, on how the final stages of the programme are progressing and... more >
Modernising journeys in north east England

09/11/2017Modernising journeys in north east England

First Hull Trains is about to embark on the biggest fleet overhaul it has delivered since being set up in 2000. Managing director Will Dunnett te... more >
Ian Prosser: Safety by design

02/11/2017Ian Prosser: Safety by design

Ian Prosser, the ORR’s chief inspector of railways and director of railway safety, outlines to RTM’s Josh Mines the key challenges fa... more >