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Rail freight guidance for Regional Strategies, Examinations in Public and Local Development Frameworks December 2005

Freight on Rail has written this paper on Regional Transport Strategies (RTSs) and Regional Spatial Strategies (RSS) and Local Development Frameworks (LDFs) to help activists across the regions. As you are aware, RTSs, as part of the Regional Spatial Strategy, form a key part of the framework to integrate land use planning and transport.

Good Practice Example

We suggest you view the Yorkshire and Humber RTS on our web site under regional agenda where as well as stating a policy of shifting from road to rail, mechanisms are included to aid this modal shift.

Why we need a framework for rail freight

The nation needs the right land use planning framework to cater for this demand for rail freight. The regional and local planning systems are vital instruments for achieving the modal shift to rail. They not only provide an enabling, supportive context in which rail freight can develop but ensure that new terminals are located in the right place for the right people. Without the appropriate national, regional and local planning framework the rail freight industry can neither obtain planning permission to develop new rail freight interchanges, nor protect potential rail lands, nor justify long-term investment to increase freight carried by rail.

We ask local authorities undertake to consult with the rail freight industry. Freight on Rail is pleased to act as a facilitator.

We have run nine regional rail freight workshops for local Government in partnership with the regions and a conference with the Welsh Assembly Government. We are keen to work with regional and local authorities to run further events.

We need to make sure that rail freight does not fall between regional and local plans. It is important to bear in mind that rail freight is extremely well placed to meet the key Government objectives in terms of congestion and road accidents reduction as well as improvements in air quality,

The case for rail freight

The following statistics highlight rail freight’s economic, environmental and social benefits.

Research shows that rail freight’s external costs, ie excluding congestion are eight time less per tonne kilometre than air freight and four times less than road

An aggregates train can remove 120 HGVs from the roads

Rail freight produces about one tenth of the emissions per tonne kilometre of HGVs .

Research indicates that heavy goods vehicles only pay for around 58 – 69 per cent of the costs they impose upon society .

Road maintenance Costs
Lorries are almost entirely responsible for road repairs – a 40 tonne 5 axle lorry causes tens of thousands of times more damage than an average car.

Roads are expensive to maintain

Lorries cause significant damage to the roads which has to be paid for by taxpayers. Transferring freight to the railways reduces this cost. The damage done by heavy vehicles increases with approximately the fourth power of the axle load. Using the fourth power law, one axle of 10 tonnes (HGV scale) is 160,000 times more damaging to a road surface than an axle of 0.5 tonnes (car scale). This is why road surface maintenance is generally taken to be almost exclusively attributable to the heaviest vehicles.

Sending goods by rail can lower road maintenance costs for authorities.

In general terms the key existing and potential markets for rail freight are:-

  • Bulk freight – coal, construction materials, petroleum, iron ore, iron and steel products, waste and containers
  • High value freight – cars car parts food and drink and containers
  • Premium freight – express parcels and second class mail
  • International freight – through the Channel Tunnel and ports

A. Regional Transport Strategies (RTS) and Regional Spatial Strategies (RSS) should set the policies to promote the shift to rail freight. We ask local and regional authorities to follow the following guidelines:-

  1. Make sure that the RTS and Regional Economic Strategy and Local Development Frameworks evaluate rail freight thoroughly. Freight Strategies are a good mechanism to achieve this. Ensure that there is cross reference between these documents and the Local Development Frameworks and Local Transport Plans.
  2. Make provision to understand rail and road freight better through collection of meaningful statistics and enhanced monitoring.
  3. Understand the major freight flows, the rail infrastructure, who the players are and what could go by rail. (LDF issue)
  4. Take account of the fact that rail freight flows normally cross regional boundaries so that awareness of cross regional and national rail freight flows are important.
  5. Separate treatment between local and long distance traffic does not work for rail freight.
  6. Planning policy should encourage rail connected sites for distribution and industrial development. Avoid the mistakes of the 1980s where for instance major new car factories were built without rail access. (LDF issue)
  7. Protect sites, especially those with rail connection for interchanges/terminals. (LDF issue)
  8. Promote new terminals and the upgrade of existing ones that have good road and rail access. Expansion of existing sites is commonly a faster and simpler way to increase modal shift.
  9. It is important to push for expansion, where feasible, of existing rail freight flows as this is often a simple and fast way of achieving modal shift.
  10. Providing and safeguarding the sufficient capability and capacity on rail routes to ports should be a high priority.
  11. Planning policy should identify and protect track beds and sidings with existing or possible future rail potential taking into account PPG13 even where there was no foreseeable rail usage. For example Surrey Heath and Beftonforth Ltd cases upheld PPG13* in this way. (LDF issue)
  12. In rural areas if lines are preserved they may be used by quarries.
  13. Have dialogue with the Office of Rail Regulation to protect rail paths for rail freight through conurbations.
  14. Promote waste strategies to use rail as the preferred mode for access to larger landfill, incinerator or recycling centre.
  15. Allocate funds to improve road access to existing or new rail freight terminals.
  16. Make provision for road signage for existing and new sites. Proper lorry routing can minimize the impact on areas around interchanges.
  17. Disseminate information across business promoting rail freight benefits to business.
  18. Establish FQPs relating to management of all modes freight traffic.
  19. Promote mineral strategies to use rail as the preferred mode.
  20. Set targets such as number of lorry journeys saved and growth of rail’s share in local freight market to measure progress.
  21. Establish dialogue with DfT rail directorate and in particular region managers.
  22. Establish dialogue with Network Rail with is now responsible for Freight Route Utilisation Study (FRUS) as well as Route Utilisation Strategies which cover freight and passenger issues.

B. What makes a good railhead?

To be effective interchange terminals must:

  1. Be on an existing railway line – this sounds obvious but as building new railway lines is extremely expensive there is little chance of lengthy new lines for freight.
  2. Have good road access suitable for HGVs – full –size lorries need to be able to serve railheads safely and with minimal impact on other road users.
  3. Be of sufficient size – today’s freight trains are often over 500 metres in length, modern handling methods safe working areas and value-adding activity (storage, processing, re-packing) need space. There are however examples of small profitable terminals around the country.
  4. Be capable of 24 hour operation – a requirement of many customers, which often means that activity at railheads must be able to take place at all times. Residential property in the vicinity should be designed so that sleep is not disturbed or better still do not allocate housing near potential sites. (LDF issue)

    Understand local factors

  5. Do not underestimate the importance of this element, which, if wrongly handled can kill a project.
  6. Consult and understand local opposition and promote the wider environmental benefits.
  7. Choose the right location and size, use green vehicles where reasonably practicable, sustainable building design and landscaping.

    What makes a good freight route?
  8. To serve freight customers effectively freight trains should use routes with capacity which provides time-tabled pathways for predictable, consistent and reliable train operation.
  9. Clearances to take the type of wagons and intermodal units that the customer demands.


Please do consult Freight on Rail if you have any queries. Current regions’ strategies are on the web site under regional agenda

Telephone: 020 8241 9982
Philippa Edmunds November 2005

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