Rail freight is continuing to expand. Recent data published by the Office of Rail Regulation shows freight carried by rail rose by 5.8% in the year 2013-14 compared to the year before.
A report commissioned by the Rail Delivery Group says British businesses are saving £1 billion a year by using rail freight. The report, ‘Keeping the Lights on and the Traffic Moving’ is based on analysis by KPMG. Government and private sector investment has helped rail freight in Britain grow by 70% in the past 20 years. British rail freight has increased its share of the market for transporting goods, in contrast to some still largely European state-run railways.
Welcoming the report, John Smith, managing director of GB Railfreight and a member of the RDG, said, ‘This report reiterates the vital contribution that rail freight makes to the UK economy: delivering goods, helping to build new infrastructure, servicing our railways and removing lorries from the roads. The opportunity is there to double the size of the sector over the next three years and we are committed to delivering this growth. At a time when the roads are congested and the Government is investing heavily in our railways – including HS2 – rail freight is a sustainable answer to keeping the UK’s economy moving for decades to come.’
Philippa Edmunds, Freight on Rail manager, urged the government to continue its support for rail freight as the recession recedes. ‘Rail freight, which grew by almost 6% last year, is integral to the productivity and efficiency of many sectors of the UK so it is crucial that the Government continues to invest in rail freight access to the network,’ says Philippa Edmunds. ‘The economy relies on rail freight which carries goods worth £30 billion per year ranging from whiskies and luxury cars to steel, cement and coal.’ The sector is now seen as vital to energising Britain’s economic competitiveness. In fact over half the fuel delivered to power stations to generate electricity is carried by rail.
Says Peter Maybury, chairman of Freightliner and the RDG freight group, ‘High levels of private sector investment and innovation matched by significant infrastructure improvements are now helping rail freight to bring
£1.5 billion a year of benefits to Britain’s businesses and the wider economy.
Rail freight helps keep shop shelves stocked and the power on while taking thousands of lorries off the roads, reducing harmful emissions and keeping Britain competitive in the global economy. Rail freight has been transformed over the past two decades and is set to keep growing.
By continuing to drive efficiency and improve performance, operators could help more than double the size of the sector over the next three decades and increase the economic benefits of rail freight to over £4 billion a year.’