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Useful Facts and Figures

Aside from this introductory page of facts and figures, below, we have additional pages dedicated to the economic, safety and environmental arguments for rail freight.

  • Rail freight has a key role to play in the low carbon economy as rail produces 76 per cent less carbon dioxide emissions than the equivalent road journey and a gallon of diesel will carry a tonne of freight 246 miles by rail as opposed to 88 miles by road.
  • Rail transported 17.4 billion tonne kilometres of freight in 2018/19, a three per cent increase on the past year, equating to 10% of freight surface transport.
  • Rail freight moved by commodity sector in Great Britain 2018/19: domestic intermodal 39 per cent, Construction 26 per cent, Oil & petroleum 6 per cent, international 3 per cent, Metals 8 per cent other 11 per cent which including biomass, and coal 7 per cent. There was growth of seven per cent in Oil and Petroleum, seven   per cent in coal, eight per cent in metals, three per cent in internationaland eleven per cent in the category other which includes biomass, general merchandise and post.
  • Office of Rail and Road figures for the first quarter of the year 2019/20, the period from April to June show that construction traffic recorded its highest quarterly figure with a five per cent increase compared  to the same quarter the previous year.  Consumer traffic, known as ‘domestic intermodal’, which is the largest rail freight sector, increased by one per cent and general merchandise and mail  was up eight per cent.
  • Furthermore, Network Rail forecasts for the next five years estimate continued annual growth of over three per cent per annum.

    Graph showing growth in freight moved
  • There is suppressed demand for rail freight services in both markets due to lack of network capacity so it is crucial that the Government continues to upgrade the Strategic Freight Network so that more freight can be transferred to rail to reduce road congestion, road crashes and pollution.  Shippers want to use more rail and each rail slot which comes free at Felixstowe port can be filled immediately.
  • There are significant numbers of large HGVs, 5 axle and above covering long distances on key strategic corridors where there are parallel rail routes, some of which could be captive to rail if the network is upgraded. For example, half of the traffic from these large HGVs is on trips is on trips over 200kms, and a quarter on trips over 300kms.
  • However the lack of a level playing field continues to make it difficult for sustainable freight modes to compete with HGVs.  
  • Latest UK research using Government Statistics shows that HGVs are paying less than a third of the costs they impose on society in terms of crashes, congestion, road damage and pollution as HGVs receive a subsidy of around £6.5 billion per annum. See full details

For more statistics go to the three separate sections on economic, safety and environmental arguments for rail freight.

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