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  • Rail better at reducing road freight than previously thought

    The ability of rail freight to reduce congestion and pollution on roads is far greater than previously thought, according to figures from one of T&E’s British member organisations. The figures suggest that integrated rail and road planning is a better option for reducing the environmental impact of road transport than expanding road capacity.

    The idea of shifting freight from road to rail has existed as an environmental aspiration for three decades, but calculating the potential benefits has often been difficult. Now a multimodal freight and logistics centre which enables the transfer of freight between road and rail has produced statistics showing it has removed 103 million kilometres of truck journeys from UK roads in the last year alone. This figure is almost three times more than previously thought.

    The statistics have come from the intermodal freight terminal in Daventry, and were published by Campaign for Better Transport. CBT’s freight-on-rail manager Philippa Edmunds said: ‘These latest figures confirm what we have long argued – that the best way to reduce road congestion, collisions and pollution is integrated rail and road planning, not adding ever more lanes to motorways.
    ‘Strategic rail freight interchanges like the one at Daventry show how the private sector is investing in and supporting rail freight. We now need governments to support rail by upgrading the existing network and setting affordable charges to enable rail to remove even more lorries from our congested roads.’

    The UK is in the process of catching up in the provision of intermodal freight facilities with countries like Germany and the Netherlands, which have had stronger municipal government with more resources to give to strategic freight planning. As rail/road transhipment points are needed at both ends of a freight journey, the absence of such intermodal centres in the UK has limited the scope for transnational rail freight involving the UK. The fact that intermodal transhipment centres already exist in mainland Europe increases the scope for transnational rail freight through the Channel Tunnel, especially as UK rail freight is relatively efficient compared to mainland Europe.
    Rail freight interchanges enable rail to compete with road by reducing the costs of transferring freight from one mode to another. They are also generators of long-term employment.

    The figures from Daventry support previous research for Campaign for Better Transport which found that upgrading existing rail lines running parallel to strategic motorways would help reduce road congestion and improve productivity. This applies to cities as well as long-distance routes – a third of London rush hour traffic is freight-related.
    T&E’s freight and rail officer, Samuel Kenny, commented: ‘The UK research shows how better door-to-door services can attract more companies to use rail. However, that requires a good political vision for freight. The Commission should take inspiration for this ahead of the upcoming review of the Combined Transport Directive.’