I am today (13 September 2016) publishing the government’s new ‘Rail freight strategy’, which has been developed in collaboration with Network Rail, the rail freight industry and its customers.
Rail freight makes an important contribution to our economic and environmental well-being, with benefits estimated at around £1.6 billion to the national economy every year. It generates around £1 billion from improved productivity, while around £0.6 billion is the value of the reductions in road congestion, carbon emissions and air pollutants.
Rail freight currently carries one in four of the containers coming into our ports, and has the potential to carry an even higher proportion. Each freight train removes the equivalent of up to 76 lorry journeys from our roads. Transporting freight by rail reduces carbon emissions by around three quarters compared to road, and also provides significant benefits through reduced local air pollution, road damage, traffic noise and road traffic accidents.
Since rail privatisation in the 1990s, the rail freight industry’s market share of freight transport has risen from around 5% to around 12%. The industry has invested significantly on its own account, in rolling stock and terminals, in order to win new customers.
Government is also investing on a large scale in the rail network, including important enhancements worth nearly £240 million specifically identified by the rail freight industry as their priority.
This Rail freight strategy sets out our vision for how rail freight can continue to grow, and how the broader logistics sector and rail industry can collaborate and innovate to help relieve pressure on the road network. It looks at challenges facing the rail freight industry – the way in which network capacity is used, the potential for innovation, the skills challenge and public perceptions of rail freight – and identifies ways in which the government and the industry can work together to address them.
A copy of the strategy has been placed in the library of both Houses and is also available on
GOV.UK, together with 2 supporting technical reports.