Rail freight


Switching from lorries to freight trains could cut air pollution by 10%

Making the switch from HGVs to trains for freight travel could lead to 10% less air pollution from NOx across the country, says new research from the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT).

Following an investigation into lorry travel across four of Britain’s busiest freight routes, the analysis has shown that a potential 18 fewer people could be killed or seriously injured every year.

If the switch was made it could mean as many as 2,000 less HGVs on the road, leading to a 7% reduction in particulates from all road traffic on the routes and 2.5% reduction in carbon emissions.

The research looked at the A14 between Felixstowe and the Midlands, the A34 from Southampton to the Midlands, and the M6 and M62 motorways, which together carry around 37,500 HGVs every day.

Along with the environmental benefits on offer, the conclusions suggest that changes to freight delivery could be achieved by 2025 and would bring a major reduction in congestion along the studied routes.

Any changes would involve some significant infrastructure work, as track would have to be upgraded to allow for freight to run effectively.

Philippa Edmunds, manager of Freight on Rail – a partnership between the CBT, unions and the freight industry – said the government should use this research as a catalyst for future policies.

“This research shows that by upgrading the existing rail lines which run parallel to these motorway routes would allow large numbers of lorry loads to be transferred to rail, easing congestion, improving air quality and reducing road collisions,” she commented.

“In particular the effect on reducing particulates is very important because, whilst the latest euro VI engine technology reduces exhaust particulates, non-exhaust particulates pollution from HGV tyres and brakes remain a serious problem for which there is no current solution, especially for trucks which have large tyres.

“The government should use the findings of this research to feed into its future road and rail investment strategies and in particular to support continued investment in the strategic rail freight network.”

Last month, Edmunds wrote for RTM about the importance of rail freight in Britain’s transport system, positing that the socioeconomic value of this sector was often overlooked.

Network Rail today announced its own freight measures, with the introduction of £150m of in-cab signalling systems.

This new technology, which forms part of the country’s Digital Railway Programme, will improve the safety of freight trains, make better use of the network and provide greater flexibility in the timetable.

Top image: Freight on Rail

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Michael King   20/12/2017 at 17:08

Where Motorways go after they are widened to four lanes who knows? I think I do. I think others may too. Nowhere but fuller for longer and slower for longer. Railways should have the capacity to take some of the problem away . Thus a three hour jam becomes a two hours forty-three minute one. That’s not ironic it helps. If they knew who they were the 1800 people saved over a century would give thanks too. However , the pollution benefit might be overstated, might it not? Electric development and all that. Nevertheless do it! I expect the final leg of a journey will be by road ? Can we get those three wheelers with pointed bonnets back?

Lutz   20/12/2017 at 19:10

Unfortunately this supposed research has been discredited from the outset.

Peterg   21/12/2017 at 08:27

Freight transferred from rail to road in the first place because of economics and convenience - even if you move something 99% of its journey by rail, chances are you'll still need an HGV to take it the last few miles from a freight terminal to a distribution centre, store etc. In which case you might as well ditch the expensive train altogether and just use the HGV you already own/lease/contract. The report also fails to take into account that many of the rail lines that could be used for freight are already at capacity - how do CBT propose adding freight paths to the WCML when it's already at saturation point? A £150m in-cab signalling system isn't going to solve it.

Mmlred   21/12/2017 at 12:46

Peterg, the nature of freight haulage has changed massively since those days thanks to containerisation, which is now more or less the standard for railfreight (aggregates excepted) and means goods can be swiftly returned to lorries for the last miles. The increasing number of container terminals built and under construction (East Midlands Gateway for example) will only make that process easier. There really isn't any excuse in this day and age not to transport goods by rail. With the insane congestion on many UK motorways, it's often faster to use bulk railfreight transport nowadays anyway, as the shiny Tesco train speeding past you as you sit bumper to bumper on the outskirts of Stafford on the M6 will attest.

Mark Sudbury   21/12/2017 at 14:43

But it's not just one lorry Peter G, if 50 of them were doing the same route as a train that's 50 separate sources of emissions for 99% of the journey instead of one. Makes much more sense to have lorries doing short runs from rail heads. Reduces driver hours and pollution, perfect.

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