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What Government support rail freight needs to play its full role in serving the economy.

  • Rail freight is worth £1.6 billion per year to the UK economy.
  • Each year the rail freight industry carries goods worth over £30 billion ranging from high end whiskies and luxury cars to supermarket products, steel, cement and construction materials.
  • A quarter of consumer goods imported into the UK are transported by rail.
  • Construction traffic grew 10% in the 2014/15 and is forecast to grow 2.5% per year. London alone receives 40% of its raw materials by rail.
  • Rail freight is the low carbon1 safer2 mode which reduces road congestion3 and road damage4.

The following are the key issues facing the rail freight industry:-

  • Retention of centralised system operator within Network Rail
  • Need more rail freight terminals of all sizes, especially
  • Strategic Rail Freight Interchanges for consumer traffic
  • Terminals for construction traffic in London
  • Upgrades to the Strategic Rail Freight Network in the current period until 2019 (CP5) are crucial as there is suppressed demand for rail freight, due to lack of capacity.
  • Need for continued Strategic Rail Freight Network funding in 2019-2024 period (CP6)-
  • Felixstowe to the North, Trans-Pennine freight paths and fund for smaller projects
  • Government need to protect key rail lands for future freight and passenger services in its Land disposals.
  • Lack of a level playing field between rail and HGVs needs to be taken into account in the forthcoming review of freight track access charges (PR18)
  • Bigger heavier trucks are dangerous and undermine sustainable rail freight

General Points
For rail to thrive and secure new markets to replace coal traffic the Government needs to ensure that there is a level playing field with road freight in transport policy and provide a stable and consistent framework so that the industry has confidence to invest5.

In particular, the industry needs support in the following areas:-

  1. Need to retain centralized system operator function within Network Rail
    Therefore we welcome  Network Rail’s introduction of the ‘Virtual Freight Route’, which will retain central control of freight to protect the needs of the rail freight operators and its customers across different regions, irrespective of devolution.
  2. Retention of the centralized system operator function within Network Rail as recommended by the Shaw Review is crucial for rail freight to include nationwide access, timetabling and possession planning.
  3. Planning permission needed for more rail terminals/interchanges to reduce road congestion
    Rail freight terminals of differing sizes are needed at key points on the network to reduce congestion, road collisions, road damage and pollution. For example the Strategic Rail Freight terminal (SRFIs) at Daventry*, removes 23 million HGV road miles a year, most of which are on the trunk network. So continued support within the spatial planning system is crucial for other SRFIs coming on stream. More medium sized and small terminals are also needed. For example 40% of London’s raw materials are delivered by rail now and this business could expand significantly if more terminals in the capital get planning permission from local authorities as part of sustainable freight transportation policy. Rail was used extensively during the construction of the Olympics infrastructure and Cross Rail to bring in aggregates and remove industrial spoil.
  4. Upgrades to the Strategic Rail (Freight) Network in this current control period (CP5)until 2019
    It is crucial that the funded and committed Strategic Rail Freight Network schemes rail freight upgrades, listed below, are completed on time within this NR control period ending 2019 as there is suppressed demand for consumer and construction traffic services. Every rail slot out of Southampton and Felixstowe ports can be used immediately. 
    Branch line upgrades between Felixstowe and Ipswich which will provide 10 extra rail freight slots in and out of the port per day resulting in the removal of an additional 600 HGVs per day.
    Upgrades to Liverpool docks
    Completion of train lengthening out of Southampton to increase capacity and offer diversionary route.
    Buxton train lengthening to increase construction traffic from Peak district.
  5. Next round of funding CP6 from 2019-2024
    Need for continued Strategic Rail Freight Network funding – Felixstowe to the North capacity, Trans-Pennine freight paths and a fund for smaller projects
    The Hendy Review, which was tasked with reviewing the status of the Network Rail enhancement projects, acknowledged rail freight schemes deliver very high value for money. It stated that the average benefit cost ratio for rail freight schemes is between 4 to 56, which demonstrates that rail freight upgrades offer significant socio-economic benefits to the UK. Targeted interventions work; the gauge upgrades out of Southampton resulted in rail’s share of the market increasing from 28 to 36% within a year of the upgrade7.
  6. Integrated Cross- Modal Departmental Transport Planning
    We believe that future strategic planning for investments in parallel rail and road corridors needs to be integrated to maximise the economic, safety and environmental benefit of infrastructure enhancements. Therefore, the next stage of the Road Investment Strategy (RIS2) and Rail investment process (HLOS) for CP6 should identify the corridors with the largest opportunities for rail freight to relieve road congestion.With seven more SRFIs, like Daventry* SRFI, expected to come on stream soon, there is the potential to remove large numbers of HGVs off key strategic routes by upgrading parallel rail routes. Rail services out of Felixstowe already remove around 2000 HGVs of the A14 corridor; completion of the planned, but as yet unfunded capacity works in CP6, could remove around 40 million lorry miles per year from the A14 corridor. 
  7. Disposal of Rail Lands
    There must be adequate mechanisms to consult the rail freight industry in order to protect lands which could be needed for future stations/freight terminals and line re-openings. Rail freight needs more terminals of all sizes in the right locations if it is to increase volumes.
  8. Review of Freight Access Charges
    We wish to underline that the rail freight sector needs a stable, affordable and consistent approach to charges to give the industry and its customers certainty. Therefore, we ask the Government to work with the Rail Regulator to ensure rail freight operators have affordable longer-term network access charges at the next periodic review (PR 18) Any review of rail freight charges must take into account the scale of subsidy given to HGVs; the latest research carried out for the Campaign for Better Transport8 using DfT values, found that HGVs pay less than a third of their costs, such as road congestion, road collisions, road damage and pollution which equate to an annual subsidy of around £6.5 billion. These conclusions are in line with a MDS Transmodal study in 2007 which found a very similar amount of underpayment: £6billion.  The Government needs to recognise HGV costs in discussion about rail freight costs so that policy implications can then be understood in both directions with road and rail being examined across the piece. The level of HGV subsidy makes a compelling case for supporting rail, which imposes much lower costs on society and the economy, equivalently. 
    The latest research on HGV external costs from Transport and Environment in April 2016 backs up the CBT and MDS Transmodal figures as it also found that HGVs across the EU only pay around 30% of their costs.
  9. Threat of EU cross border traffic of mega trucks to the economy, society and rail freight
    UK Government should oppose cross border traffic of 25 metre (82ft) mega trucks on safety, economic and environmental groundsto stop them coming to the UK by default over time. Mega trucks present serious road safety dangers because of their mass and dimensions, which cause increased blind spots and maneuverability and handling/stability problems, such as snaking. Existing HGVs are six times more likely than cars to be involved in fatal collisions on minor roads.
    The case for mega trucks relies on the same mistaken presumption used in the past to justify each increase in lorry dimensions, that there would be fewer but bigger trucks on the roads. In practice however, since the previous increases in dimensions there is no evidence of larger or heavier lorries leading to improvements in average payloads or a reduction in empty running. While reducing costs for haulage operators, mega trucks would impose even higher socio-economic costs on society than the existing HGVs and undermine rail freight, the sustainable alternative.
    The proponents’ case is predicated on mega trucks, which would be fifty per cent longer and up to a third heavier than existing trucks, delivering a significant reduction in vehicle kilometres. The assumptions for safety and environmental improvement depend entirely on the prediction of a dramatic reduction in vehicles kilometres on the premise that 2 mega trucks would replace 3 HGVs.  However, the justification for mega trucks is derived from very high levels of load utilisation – in excess of that routinely achieved within the haulage sector. So until there is a rational basis for all existing HGVs to be used more efficiently it is questionable how assumptions can be made that even bigger trucks will have higher utilisation than existing HGVs.
    Currently almost 30% of lorries are completely empty in the UK and almost 50% of lorries are neither constrained by volume or weight, ie partially loaded. When empty and partially loaded, mega trucks will use more fuel per vehicle kilometre because they are heavier than current HGVs.
  10. 7ft longer HGVs in DfT trial are dangerous on local roads to other road users
    Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) and  the Technical Advisors Group (TAG) , supported by British Cycling, Cycling UK, Living Streets and RoadPeace, believe that these these 7ft longer trucks, known as longer semi trailers (LST), currently under DfT trials, need to be restricted to safe urban routes because their lack of maneuverability makes them dangerous off the Strategic Road Network.
    CBT and TAG saw again in our second DfT organized demonstration on 14th April 2016 that, in urban environments, where standard left or right hand turns are made, the out-swing of the rear of the trailer will be almost double that of the normal full length articulated HGV. Up from 1.7m (5.5ft)on the standard 13.6 metre trailer to 3.3m (10.8ft) and this will occur in the driver’s increased blind spot. Many urban junctions could not accommodate such trucks without their entering ‘wrong lanes or mounting the footway or traffic islands. This will be particularly dangerous for all other road users who may get side swiped as it will not be obvious to them how the back of the lorry will swing out into another lane, as explained by our graphic.
    However, the DfTdoes not recognize these dangers currently and says that LSTs will not use local urban routes even though LSTs will need access to depots which are normally on local roads. The Secretary of State for Transportwrote recently to the Deputy Mayor of London stating that the 7ft longer trucks have the same performance as existing full length articulated trucks9 which is factually incorrect and contradicts its own consultation documents. There is a significant difference between the 7ft longer truck meeting existing standard regulations,as set out in the Construction and Use legislation, and it meeting the actual maneuverability performance of the existing full length articulated trucks, which it does not.

1. Rail freight produces 78% less CO2 emissions than HGVs per equivalent journey – DfT Logistics Perspective 2008 P8 paragraph 10.

2. Rail is 20 times safer than HGVs according to the ORR 2015; HGVs are over 6 times more likely than cars to be involved in fatal collisions on local roads – DfT Traffic statistics table TRA0104, Accident statistics Table RAS 30017 September 2014

3. An aggregates freight train can remove up to 136 HGVs from our roads – Network Rail  Value and importance of rail freight 2012

4. The largest HGVs are up to 160,000 times more damaging to road infrastructure than the average car – 4th power law

5. Rail freight industry has invested over £2 billion since 1994

6. Ref 28 Hendy Review

7. Financial analysis  £70.7 million project having a Net Present value of £376m

8. Addendum to Metropolitan Transport Research Unit MTRU 2014 report February 2015. Heavy Goods Vehicles – do they pay for the damage they cause 2014

9. Reply to Deputy Mayor of London April 2015 from SoS for Transport re trials of 7ft longer trucks

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