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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 17.2 billion tonne kilometres of freight in 2016/17 equating to 11% of freight surface transport.
  • Rail freight moved by commodity sector in Great Britain 2015-2016: Construction 25%, Oil & petroleum 7%, international 3%. Metals 9%, other 10% which including biomass, Domestic Intermodal 39% and coal 8%.
  • The railways were built during the Industrial Revolution to move coal but due to the need to reduce CO2 emissions it is being phased out by 2025 and has declined steeply since the trebling of the carbon tax, first introduced in April 2012.  Since April 2016, coal has continued to decline steeply but two other key traffics, namely consumer and construction flows, have grown consistently over the past ten years and would expand further were the rail network capacity available. This year has been a period of transition for the industry as it adjusts to the deep decline in coal traffic.
  • The ORR 2016/17 statistics show consistent expansion in the key consumer and construction rail freight markets with record levels of traffic.
  • Construction traffic increased by 7 per cent and consumer traffic by 6 per cent in 20016/7, increasing each quarter, compared to the previous year. The final quarter figures show 9 per cent consumer and 11 per cent construction traffic increases compared to the same quarter in the previous year.
  • 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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