Tuesday, September 13, 2016

New Government Strategy for Rail Freight Welcomed by Operators and Lobby Groups

Report Sets Out Case to Support Track Borne Operations
Shipping News Feature
UK – The release of a new Rail Freight Strategy report by the Department for Transport has been welcomed unreservedly by the country’s rail freight lobby which recognises the importance, both now and in the future, that intermodal transport and bulk carriage has in the logistics sector. Both industry associations, such as the Rail Freight Group, and individual operators were quick to sing the strategy’s praises.

According to government figures rail freight currently carries one in four of the containers coming into our ports, and has the potential to carry an even higher proportion, with each freight train estimated to remove the equivalent of up to 76 lorry journeys from Britain’s roads. Transporting freight by rail reduces carbon emissions by around 75% compared to road, and also provides significant benefits through reduced local air pollution, road damage, traffic noise and road traffic accidents.

The Strategy is all inclusive and covers matters from network capacity, and how it is utilised, potential innovations, public perceptions and the challenge of locating staff with the right skills in a competitive market. Since rail privatisation in the 1990s, the rail freight industry’s market share of freight transport has risen from around 5% to around 12%. The industry has invested significantly on its own account, in rolling stock and terminals, in order to win new customers, and the government says it is also investing on a large scale in the rail network, including important enhancements worth nearly £240 million specifically identified by the rail freight industry as their priority.

Freightliner was one of the operator’s which saw the Strategy as a positive move and welcomed it saying it recognises the positive benefits that rail freight delivers for the UK economy and its role in helping to reduce carbon emissions. Russell Mears, Freightliner European CEO and Chair of the Rail Delivery Group’s (RDG) Freight Group commented:

“The Strategy emphasises the importance of having a clear policy framework to support rail freight to achieve its potential, it sets out a clear vision for how rail freight can continue to grow and identifies opportunities for industry partners to collaborate and innovate in order to help deliver increased environmental and air quality benefits, relieve the pressure on our road network and increase the productivity of British businesses. We recognise that it will be for the industry, including the rail freight operators, to deliver the vision and we welcome the sense of direction that this Strategy provides in helping the industry plan ahead.”

The reaction of the Rail Freight Group (RFG) was equally enthusiastic saying it highlights where government action can help unlock barriers to growth and provide a stable environment for growth, including network capacity and track access charging, particularly with significant private sector investment being made by rail freight operators, customers, ports, terminals and the supply chain. Maggie Simpson, RFG Executive Director, said:

“The rail freight sector is changing and freight operators and their customers are working to deliver growth in new and existing markets and to be fit for the future. This strategy will help to provide the stable and supportive environment they need to do so, and we welcome its publication.”