A new report published by the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) outlines that rail freight delivers £2.5bn in economic and social benefits to the UK annually and additionally to sustainability targets.
Based on independent research by Deloitte, analysis has shown that the North of England, Wales and Scotland are among the areas that are benefitting most from this contribution.
In regards to sustainability, the report reveals that rail freight is tackling gridlock and pollution in England’s most congested city, removing as many as 1,000 lorries from London’s roads every day, with similar benefits for cities across the UK.
Robert Nisbet, Director of Nations and Regions for the Rail Delivery Group, said: “Rail will play a central role in levelling up Britain and rail freight is already doing some heavy lifting, supporting businesses and jobs across the nations and regions.
"As we work to secure a green recovery from Covid-19, encouraging more businesses to move their goods by train coupled with a rolling programme of electrification would see rail freight play an even bigger role in helping the nation to meet its carbon commitments.”
As rail produces 76% less carbon emissions compared to road and, with a freight train carrying as much as 110 lorries, an increase in rail freight will not only shrink Britain’s carbon footprint but significantly reduce traffic jams and help to cut customs queues at ports.
Zoe McLernon, Policy Manager of Multimodal at the trade association Logistics UK, commented: “Logistics UK is urging the government to unlock capacity for rail freight services to help to meet the target of a net zero emission economy by 2050. Currently taking seven million lorries off the roads each year, rail freight can play a vital role in achieving the UK’s decarbonisation targets, but capacity for freight services is severely constrained”
One of the constraints are the challenges of capacity on what is already a very congested national rail network, with increased demand for more public rail services creating further challenges for capacity for freight on Britain's railways.
Eddie Aston, Chief Executive Officer for G&W’s UK/Europe Region companies, including Freightliner, said: “I am delighted to see this fresh research undertaken by Deloitte, on behalf of the Rail Delivery Group. The significant economic and environmental benefits that the rail freight sector contributes to UK society are clear from this report, and I am excited to be working in a sector that has a huge part to play in growing the economy.”
“In my previous roles, I have observed first-hand the many benefits that using rail brings to the logistics sector, including high reliability, improved safety and reduced congestion on the road network. I am pleased that this new piece of work enables the real economic benefit of rail freight to be calculated for the first time and provides valuable data to better inform decisions around the best use of the rail network.”
The study also found that freight trains are transporting more consumer items, including groceries, cars and electronics, providing cost efficient transport to businesses, while the consumer benefits through lower prices.