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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% 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 16.95 billion tonne kilometres of freight in 2017/18 equating to 10% of freight surface transport.
  • Rail freight moved by commodity sector in Great Britain 2015-2016: Construction 25%, Oil & petroleum 6%, international 3%. Metals 9%, other 10% which including biomass, Domestic Intermodal 40% and coal 7%.
  • The rail freight market has adjusted and largely recovered from the huge changes in the past three years because of the rapid decline in coal movements due to the need to reduce CO2 emissions it is being phased out by 2025. 2016/17 saw record levels of consumer and construction traffic.The final quarter figures for that year show 9 per cent consumer and 11 per cent construction traffic increases compared to the same quarter in the previous year.

    Graph showing growth in freight moved
  • The ORR 2017/18 statistics show consistent expansionin the key construction rail freight marketeach quarter with record levels of traffic; overall it increased by 1.5%. Consumer traffic decreased marginally against its highest traffic levels of the previous year but largely held its own.
  • Even more recently, the latest quarterly Office of Rail and Road (ORR) rail freight statistics, issued in September 2018, show record expansion in construction traffic (up seven percent) demonstrating the industry's key role in building our infrastructure and housing. There was a 5 percent growth, in so-called other traffic, which includes biomass and postal services; consumer traffic, now represents 39 percent of the market.
  • 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 road transport. 
  • 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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