According to the Rail Technology Magazine (RTM) sending more goods by rail has the potential to dramatically reduce road congestion, road collisions, CO2 and NOx emissions. Consumer rail freight, which has consistently grown this year, is well-placed to offer the long-distance trunk haul.
In fact, government figures show the potential for modal shift to rail as the largest HGVs (5+ axles) make far more longer distance journeys than the smaller lorries. A quarter of all their trips are over 300km so some of this traffic should be captive to rail if there is enough rail capacity.
Freight on Rail – a partnership of the rail freight operators, Rail Freight Group, Network Rail, the transport trade unions and Campaign for Better Transport, state that almost two thirds of the public (61%) want more freight on the railway, with only 2% wanting to see more on the roads.
Britains exit from the EU means that there are more trading opportunities with countries further afield, and the recent link created between the UK and China via the silk road railway shows that far away destinations could be well within reach.
Seven key targets were created by the FTA, after discussion with existing and potential customers, they were as follows:
1 Cost reduction by 15% based on current costs plus innovation
2 Six-hour response time to service and alteration requests
3 Seven-day railway capability
4 Standard train lengths should be increased by 17.5%
5 400% increase in terminal capacity
6 Reduce intermodal transfer costs by £50
7 Reduce Channel Tunnel rail freight charges and rates by £50
Rail freight is still in its infancy compared to other means, and it certainly isn’t going to be quick fix. Existing infrastructure would not support such change at the moment, and its something to look to as more of a long term plan to ease the burden, but not take over from the more traditional approaches that are tried and tested. Rail freight can only be part of the supply chain and cannot be a complete solution, but it could go a long way to ease other areas from over use, especially post brexit.