Rail freight's role in the green economic future
In recognition of the role transport infrastructure plays in regenerating the economy, the Government has restated its commitment to fund schemes which can be demonstrated to stimulate the economy. And rail freight upgrades can tick all the key boxes in terms of road congestion relief, green jobs, reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and road accident reduction.
So the industry as a whole 1 has prioritized four main schemes to lobby for in the next round of Government funding to expand the Strategic Rail Freight Network for the period 2014-2019, (using the industry jargon, bids in the Network Rail Initial Industry Plan for the control period 5). See map attached
So why should the Government fund the following four key projects? In a nutshell, because rail freight offers a crucial low carbon, energy-efficient safer alternative to road and can deliver impressive cost benefit ratios. Road congestion is now costing around £24 billion per annum according to the Freight Transport Association based on Government figures. Rail acts as a freight bypass with each consumer freight train being capable of removing 60 HGVs from our roads;a single aggregates train can remove a staggering 160 HGVs from our roads.
Rail freight is breaking out of its traditional markets
Last year for the first time, consumer rail freight traffic was greater than coal traffic; it grew 29% in the past 5 years, despite the recession, its eighth consecutive year of growth. The industry predicts that rail freight overall will have doubled by 2030 with consumer rail freight growing 7.6% per annum during this period. There is considerable suppressed demand for rail because of the limitations of the rail network. The gauge upgrade out of Southampton which now allows the larger containers which are increasingly becoming the industry standard to be carried on standard rail wagons is a clear demonstration of this. Rail’s share of the market out of Southampton has increased from 30-39% since the upgrade was completed in February this year. Currently, rail has around 25% of the market out of Felixstowe, the UK largest container port, with 29 trains going in and out of the port daily. If the proposed upgrades are implemented that share could rise to around 40% and 40 million lorry miles could be removed from the A14 corridor each year.
The current funding situation is very difficult but the Government is still stating its support for capital infrastructure projects to stimulate the economy. Please include these schemes in your Local Plans, in responses to consultations and explain to MPs and councillors the benefits of these projects to get more freight off the roads onto the railways for a safer cleaner, less congested society and green jobs. The Government will make its decision on what is funded next summer so please highlight these key projects to enhance the Strategic Rail Freight Network.
1. Network Rail, Freight on Rail, Rail Freight Group and Freight Transport Association