Rail freight

07.06.18

Choosing rail freight over road delivered £1.7bn economy boost in 2016

Freight rail brought £1.7bn in economic profits to Britain in 2016, with regions in the north west, Yorkshire & Humber, Scotland, and the West Midlands benefitting the most.

Figures released today by the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) found nearly £1.2bn of productivity gains for British businesses that chose to use rail freight instead of road, as well as an extra £0.5bn of “externality benefits” to the country such as reducing congestion on roads, improving air quality, and reducing carbon emissions.

Regions in the north benefitted the most from it: the north west reaped the highest reward of cash into its economy with £331m in benefits, almost one-fifth of the total benefits across the UK. Yorkshire & Humber was the second highest, receiving a total of £324m from freight transport.

Externality benefits such as environmentally positive impacts from freight were also highlighted in the report. Each freight train removes up to 76 heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) from Britain’s roads. Carbon emissions are reduced by 76% compared to road haulage when freight transport is used.

The vast majority of revenue was created away from London, with 87% of benefits secured outside the south east. But freight delivering 40% of construction materials to London meant it still had a large influence in the City.

Investment played a large part in the freight industry’s growth over the last 20 years; operators and the government invested a collective £3.5bn into freight rail since 1997. Investment from terminals and ports such as London Gateway and Liverpool have allowed the areas to thrive.

Paul Plummer, chief executive of the RDG, said: “Working together, the partnership railway stands ready to do more to increase the benefits that rail freight is delivering for Britain.

“As we prepare to develop new trading relationships outside the European Union, we can build on the £30bn worth of goods carried by rail freight, connecting more British businesses with new markets via our sea ports around the country.”

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