Ministerial Statement by the Secretary of State for Transport Alistair Darling
19th July 2005
following Written Ministerial Statement was made today by the
Secretary of State for Transport, Alistair Darling.
As prosperity and the demand for goods grow, efficient freight
transport is increasingly vital to the UK economy. The Railways
Act 2005 has placed responsibility for rail freight in England
with the Department for Transport and, with the repeal of Section
206 of the Transport Act 2000, the SRA's 2001 Rail Freight Strategy
will cease to be in force. It is important, therefore, that the
Government restates clearly its objectives for rail freight.
Ten Year Plan for Transport, published in 2000, forecast potential
growth in rail freight of up to 80% to 2010. This was interpreted
by many as a target, though we always made it clear that actual
growth would depend on a number of factors - in particular, the
success of rail freight operators in winning business in highly
fact, although it is now recognised that the 80% forecast is unlikely
to be met, growth in the rail freight market has been impressive.
Rail freight is a thriving and competitive private sector industry,
and since privatisation (1995), levels of freight moved have increased
by 55% (measured in tonne km). Rail freight's market share also
increased over the same period from 8.5% to 11.5%.
Government welcomes this growth and wishes to see it continue.
Our clear policy aim is to see goods being moved in a sustainable
way, which maximizes benefits to the economy and to society. For
instance, because they generally have less impact on society than
road transport, rail and water freight can bring substantial benefits.
In 2004-05, the rail freight industry moved the equivalent of
over 7 million lorry journeys and saved 1.43 billion lorry kilometres,
delivering significant reductions in pollution and congestion.
We believe rail therefore has a crucial play in goods transport
alongside other modes, and we wish to see freight travelling by
rail instead of road wherever this makes most sense.
aim can be delivered most effectively by a Competitive and dynamic
private sector rail freight industry, and this is borne out by
the growth since privatisation, which has been driven by real
on-rail competition throughout the industry, including several
new entrants to the market. We will not dictate to the industry
how it should run its business or become involved in operational
issues. Where disputes occur with other parts of the railway,
they should be resolved through established rail industry dipute
Government does have a role to play and a relationship with the
rail freight industry. Freight companies run on the same tracks
as the publicly-specified passenger railway - therefore, Government
has to be mindful of their needs. And Government recognises and
wishes to encourage the important environmental and economic benefits
that rail freight can bring.
will therefore ensure that our policies and regulations do not
put unnecessary obstacles in the way of future growth; we will
continue to provide financial support where it is affordable and
offers the greatest environmental, congestion and safety benefits
when assessed alongside support for other modes; and we will ensure
that in specifying the passenger railways, we recognise and take
into account the consequences of our decisions upon the rail freight
achieve this, we will:
to support the principle of incremental access charges for freight
Rail freight's ability to compete against road and other modes
is dependent upon stable and affordable charging for access to
the network. The Government support this and believes it is best
achieved through the principle freight operators paying charges
which reflect only the costs that they impose upon the network
(in line with the charging principles set out in EU Directive
2001/14). We will therefore work with the rail industry to ensure
this remains the case - for instance, providing clear guidance
if and when the level of freight charges is reviewed by the ORR.
with the freight industry to understand its needs when setting
the strategy for the rail network, and to provide the greatest
possible certainty of access
order for rail freight companies and their customers to invest,
they need certainty about where and when they can run trains on
the network. The Government will work with the industry to develop
robust demand forecasting and modelling tools, and to ensure that
it understands the needs of the freight industry when developing
its High Output Specification and other key policies. We will
ensure that our appraisal methodologies treat freight and passenger
interests equitably, and we have also committed through the Railways
Act to ensuring that appropriate compensation will be provided
should the contractual interests of freight companies or others
be impaired by changes in outputs. In addition, we welcome Network
Rail's decision to produce a national freight utilisation strategy,
which will act as a key input to route utilisation strategies,
and also the ORR's recently published policy that UK freight operators
should be eligible for access contracts of up to ten years (and
longer in exceptional circumstances).
grant funding is targeted to deliver the maximum benefits in terms
of reducing congestion, pollution and accidents
2007-08, the Government's funding programmes for rail freight,
including the reopened Freight Facilities Grant, will be incorporated
alongside water and road freight grant programmes into a cross
modal Sustainable Distribution Fund. This will proritise funding
across all three modes to favour those grants that offer the maximum
benefits for the money being spent. In the meantime, the Department
will consider in consultation with the industry the most appropriate
future form for Company Neutral Revenue Support and other grant
programmes (which may include funding to flows originating from
the Channel Tunnel) within the Sustainable Distribution Fund,
and seek renewed State Aids clearance.
to ensure that regional and local planning decisions reflect Governmental
priorities relating to the sustainable movement of goods
wish to see private sector investment in major rail freight facilities,
such as intermodal terminals, continue. It is not appropriate
for the Government to promote individual schemes - it is for the
private sector to develop proposals and progress them through
the necessary approvals including planning consent. But the Government
does want due account to be taken of our policy goals for the
sustainable movement of goods. This does not imply an active role
in individual cases, but if necessary we will be ready to act
to ensure decision makers are better informed, particularly in
the application of planning guidance.. We will also be ready to
consider changes to planning guidance where appropriate.
with the industry and Network Rail to establish how freight growth
can be accommodated on the network
ORR is currently carrying out work in conjunction with Network
Rail to establish the baseline capability of the network. Once
that has been completed, we will consider with the industry how
we can support, fund and accommodate change. This could be through
reallocations of capacity within the existing network which make
sense for both passengers and freight, incorporating incremental
freight benefits into planned renewals, or considering how freight-specific
enhancements might be taken forward by either the private sector
or, in the long-tem, Government (subject to strict affordability
and value for money criteria).
with the devolved administrations, and with the EC to ensure a
consistent OK and Europe-wide approach to rail freight.
freight is a cross-border business. The Railways Act gave increased
powers to support rail freight to the devolved administrations,
and we will work with them (and with other partners such as TfL
and the Passenger Transport Executives) to ensure that policies
relating to rail freight across the UK are consistent. We will
continue to work with the EC to liberalise access to the wider
European rail freight market and increase competition, including
through the Channel Tunnel.