In a report published by the Rail Delivery Group – ‘Rail Freight: Building a stronger, greener future for Britain’ – rail freight companies have called on the government to introduce a range of new policies and reforms to accelerate ‘modal shift’ and increase the volume of goods transported by rail, rather than road.
The freight companies – DB Cargo, Freightliner, GB Railfreight, Direct Rail Services and Colas Rail, together with Network Rail and the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) – set out what legislative and regulatory changes they believe are necessary to improve infrastructure and connectivity and fully unlock the future potential of rail freight in Great Britain.
They claim that it is essential for the government to provide the confidence and certainty needed to unlock sustained investment and drive further growth, enabling freight companies to deliver more regular, reliable and environmentally friendly services for their customers.
For too long, the rail freight companies claim, the points have been unfairly set in favour of passenger train operators and they believe the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail, published recently, provides the ideal platform on which to address the current inequities. However, the fright companies realise that it will take a collaborative effort by all stakeholders involved – government, regulators, rail companies, industry bodies and our customers – to deliver this.
Recent research undertaken for the RDG by Deloitte has shown that rail freight delivers £2.45 billion of economic benefits to the UK each year. This is made up of £1.65 billionn in user benefits (time savings, cost savings, reliability improvements) and £800 million in social benefits (reduced congestion, emissions and safety impacts).
The recent pandemic and Brexit transition period reinforced the important role that rail freight plays every day in keeping Britain’s businesses and communities running. However, given the right legislative and regulatory policies, there is so much more that could be done to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of both their own operations and those of their customers too.