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Rail offers a carbon dioxide reduction solution to Government

This is an exciting time for rail freight with Government recognition that carbon emissions from freight represent a growing problem.

The scale of the carbon emissions problem facing the Government

Looking at transport in the round, it is responsible for 28% of carbon dioxide emissions in UK1

92% of domestic transport emissions are from road modes.

HGVs alone, which account for around 6% of road traffic miles, are responsible for 22% of all road transport carbon dioxide emissions and 20% of carbon dioxide emissions from all domestic transport

HGV traffic has grown by 20% since 1990 with a the 14% rise in CO2 emissions2

Overall Emissions Challenge
The challenge to the Government is large: under the EU climate and energy package, CO2 emissions in the “non-traded sector” in the UK (mainly transport and domestic heating) will need to be 16% below current levels by 2020.

Therefore rail freight can offer a carbon dioxide reduction solution to Government

Tonne for tonne moved, rail produces between three to five times less carbon dioixide3 than road freight (depending on cargo).

Rail can act as a freight by-pass

Rail freight can help ameliorate road congestion which, the FTA estimates, costs the economy £17bn per annum. Remember an average freight train can remove 50 HGVS from our roads and an aggregates train can remove 120 HGVs from our roads4

There is suppressed demand for rail freight

If the rail network were enhanced significant amounts of freight could be transferred to rail. New RFG/FTA demand forecasts show a 30% increase in tonne km from 2006 to 2015 and more than doubling by 2030. However the growth in intermodal traffic is forecast to be very much higher; more than doubling by 2015 and a five fold increase by 2030.

New Tesco service

Following the successful intermodal rail freight services provided by Direct Rail Services to Eddie Stobart and Tesco an additional service between Grangemouth and Inverness has been introduced six days a week.

What’s happening now to allow rail freight to reduce emissions

A series of crucial projects to enhance the routes from the ports to key distribution centres is being implemented as part of the Transport Innovation Funding so that rail can carry more of the large containers (gauge clearance),  which are becoming the standard sized international containers.  Key projects which have been jointly funded by the Government and business are the routes from the two largest container ports Southampton and Felixstowe and upgrades to Hull and Liverpool Docks. 

Increased funding for rail freight projects to get lorries off our congested roads

The Government has increased rail freight grants designed to remove freight from our roads. Newly announced Freight Facilities Grants funding with a total budget of £61m for the three years from 2011-2014 demonstrate the Government’s long-term commitment to both reducing road congestion and carbon dioxide emissions.

These Freight Facility Grants give industry confidence to invest in rail freight, provide long-term certainty that the schemes are ongoing and crucially help offset the initial start-up costs of the transfer to rail.

Strategic (Rail) Freight Network

The DfT July 2007 White Paper ‘Delivering a sustainable railway’ proposed the development of a Strategic Freight Network in England and Wales and allocated £200m towards its development in the Network Rail control period up to 2014.

Third party funding is needed in order for the Strategic Freight Network to be realised so we ask all interested parties to lobby local/regional authorities and business to contribute to these key projects.

What the SRN represents
The SRN will help facilitate growth and contribute to the resolution of conflicts between freight and passenger services and create a robust network with diversionary routes to benefit all users and customers.

Rail freight complies with all five Government challenges/goals, ie
Climate change, Competitiveness and productivity, Equality of opportunity, health safety and security and quality of life and the Natural Environment

Network Rail has co-ordinated the development of the SFN which has been agreed by the industry working party.SFN is designed to complement and be integrated with the existing rail network. It will provide an enhanced core trunk network capable of accommodating more and longer freight trains with a selective ability to handle wagons and with higher axle loads and greater loading gauge.

Key projects identified which will need third party funding contributions

  1. Capacity upgrades on the route from Felixstowe to Nuneaton so that port traffic can go direct to the West Midlands, North West and beyond rather than coming via London as it does currently.
  2. Diversionary route  from Southampton to the West Midlands
  3. Doncaster to Mossend gauge clearance


1. Network Rail 2008
2. EWS 2007
3. When the emissions from refining petrol included
4. Carbon Pathways DfT 2008


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