Public want Government to support more rail freight
Rail freight might not get a vote but a YouGov poll shows that the public support rail over HGVs road when it comes to freight
which makes sense as rail freight reduces road congestion, road damage, road fatalities and pollution. Our polling shows that almost two thirds of the public (61 per cent) want more freight on the railways with only two per cent wanting to see more freight on the roads.
There is demand for more consumer and construction traffic which is currently constrained by the lack of space on the rail network. The Government has just committed a £billion each year to upgrading roads but if it is mindful of public opinion it should upgrade the rail freight network too. The poll reveals that (63 per cent) of people questioned also supported the idea of increasing government funding to allow more freight trains on the rail network, with only three per cent opposing such measures.
HGVs receive a large subsidy from the Government which adds another barrier to enabling rail freight to compete on a level playing field. The reality is that HGVs pay less than a third of the costs they impose in terms of congestion, fatalities, road damage and pollution. We believe that the Office of Road and Rail which is currently reviewing rail freight charges must take this market distortion into account and give rail freight affordable charges. Campaigners are concerned that any increases in rail freight charges will further tip the balance in favour of road freight and prevent future expansion of rail freight. Of the people questioned for this poll, only around 1 in 10 (12 per cent) were in favour of increasing rail freight charges.
On June 29th, the Climate Change Committee stated that the new Government needs new plans to address climate change. Freight is a big emitter of CO2 emissions. HGVs contribute 17 per cent of surface access CO2 emissions, despite making up only 5 per cent of road vehicles whereas both passenger and freight rail together are less than 2 per cent. So increasing rail freight, which produces 76% less CO2 emissions than the equivalent HGV journey, is an important part of the DfT’s policy to reduce freight’s emissions and help the UK meet its legally binding Climate Change targets.