Event report: Rail Freight Conference 2021

It is good to see rail freight finally getting the recognition it deserves, according to Chris Heaton-Harris MP, Minister of State, Department for Transport. He was speaking to delegates at the annual Rail Freight Group Conference on 6 October in London.

He said the rail network is twice as reliable as the strategic road network in terms of on-time delivery and it would help regenerate communities across the UK, adding that 90% of the economic benefits of rail freight are generated outside London and the southeast.

Rail would be a huge contributor to the Government’s decarbonisation agenda, he said, and although the target of no diesel locos by 2040 was challenging, he argued that technology was advancing so quickly that it was achievable.

Other speakers echoed the sentiment that this is a ‘once in a generation’ opportunity for rail freight as politicians, industry and potential customers seek alternatives to road transport. They recognised that it is a hugely complex sector and that more time needs to be spent focussing on the customer and not on internal procedures if rail freight’s potential is to be met.

The establishment of Great British Railways (operational in 2024), includes a much stronger emphasis on rail freight than has been seen before, with the Transition Team calling for significant engagement with stakeholders to ensure the best results are achieved.