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Invest in rail freight to reduce road congestion.

Road and rail complement each other and should play to their strengths. And rail freight is well placed for long distance trunk haul. And new research by consultants MTRU for Campaign for Better Transport and sponsored by the Department for Transport shows that sending more goods by rail has the potential to dramatically reduce road congestion on some of the country’s busiest trunk roads. The research, looked at the economic benefits of using the railways to solve road congestion and improve productivity. In particular, the research examined the potential of increasing rail freight capacity along four heavily congested freight routes: the A14 between Felixstowe and the Midlands, the A34 from Southampton to the Midlands, and the M6 and M62 motorways.

Freight trainWe therefore welcome the official response from DfT which said: "We agree with the Campaign for Better Transport that rail freight offers real benefits for the environment and helps keep bulky loads off of the road network, helping to ease congestion for other motorists. We look forward to using these findings to help inform our coming road and rail strategies and are committed to working with the rail freight industry to support growth of the sector.”

There is suppressed demand for rail freight services because of the lack of capacity on the rail network, so there is a level of current freight demand which could be transferred very quickly if capacity were to become available meaning that the reduction of HGV flows could have a significant impact on road congestion.

The DfT gave a target figure of removing 2,000 HGVs per day from each of the chosen freight corridors, which depending on the different levels of road congestion, could equate to removing up to 8000 cars per day. The report analysed both the HGV and rail traffic on the transport corridors. The first three corridors meet the DfT criteria with the M62 the only one which needs more research about cargo types data because of the shorter distances involved.

This research confirms what we have long argued, that integrated rail and road planning into a cross-modal approach is the best way to reduce road congestion, collisions and pollution. Freight on Rail is going to calculate the significant improvements to air quality, CO2 emissions and safety benefits of modal shift as a separate but related exercise to illustrate the fuller socio-economic benefits of rail freight.  

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