Rail freight

Freight sector modal shift from growth call for evidence

The freight growth call for evidence from Great British Railways has launched today (5th July 2022) and will be open for a 12-week period, until 27th September 2022. This will act as a guiding strategy for the future of Britain’s railways, especially regarding the evolution of the freight sector, as it aims to get views from businesses on how to increase the amount of freight that is moved by rail.

The growth of rail freight is integral to government plans for decarbonisation and achieving net-zero as it will reduce the need for millions of lorry journeys across UK roads. Current estimations show that rail freight accounts for a measly 10% of UK surface freight yet can deliver social and economic benefits worth £2.5bn for the UK each year. These economic benefits are accompanied with the environmental impact of rail freight, where the trains generate 76% less carbon emissions compared to that of HGVs per tonne of goods transported.

A freight growth target will catalyse the necessary investment into the rail freight sector, by outlining the clear ambitions from the Government, thus it will encourage the sector’s customers and investors to gain confidence in the shift in operations to rail. The UK’s net-zero targets are planned to be achieved by 2050 and modelling indicates that the trebling of rail freight by this period will equate to 14 million fewer road lorry movements per year.

Rail Minister, Wendy Morton said:

“With freight playing a significant role in removing emissions from our transport network, this new growth target will be vital for creating a greener freight network as we continue to strive towards net zero.”

Helen McAllister, Programme Director (Freight Reform) at GBRTT, said:

 “Freight trains have a key role to play in a decarbonised logistics system, and there’s scope for the railway to do even more.

“Research suggests we could need to treble the amount of freight carried by rail to help meet net zero commitments. This would also cut road congestion for drivers and boost the economy.

“This call for evidence will help us understand how much of the current and future market demand for freight could be met by rail, how we can make it even more efficient and sustainable and how we can connect to new customers.”

Kate Jennings, Policy Director at Logistics UK said:

“When passenger numbers dropped as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, focus across the rail industry shifted to rail freight. But now, with passenger numbers returning, our sector will require support and investment to respond to customer demand. Logistics UK welcomes the Government’s commitment to establishing a rail freight growth target and is urging its members to respond to this Call for Evidence to ensure the resulting plans for the future of rail freight are clear and ambitious.”

Under the guidance of the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail, the establishment of the new public rail body: Great British Railways (GBR) will use the call for evidence to set the rail freight growth target, which will complement existing and future targets set by Scottish Ministers in Scotland and magnify the impact of rail freight growth nationwide.

To find out more about the future of British rail freight, please click here as Rail Technology Magazine recently interviewed Helen McAllister to discuss the implications of such a modal shift in more detail.

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