Event report – RFG AGM and Autumn Members Meeting 2021

‘Sustainability’ was a topical theme for our Autumn Members Meeting as it was held on 10 November, just as COP26 in Glasgow drew to a close.

The speakers covered a wide range of topics related to sustainability, beginning with Liam Robinson, Transport Portfolio Holder for the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority. He explained that the authority will be producing a State of Freight report by next Spring so it better understands how freight moves within and through the region and how it can be made more sustainable. As an Authority they are committed to encouraging more sustainable freight modes, including rail, and are keen to work with the industry to help deliver this.

Ed Best, Regional Manager for Suez Recycling and Recovery outlined how their company is committed to sustainability as part of their ‘triple bottom line’. He showed examples of how they are approaching a range of areas including biodiversity, circular economy and social value in their activities. Ed described how the company is keen to increase its use of rail freight and would like to develop a closer relationship with other RFG members in order to tap into the expertise and experience in the group.

George Davies, Director Sustainable Development, RSSB, described the industry programme of work, which he leads, to develop a Sustainability strategy. This will cover a wide range of themes, and will look to set industry goals in each area. He said it was important to be able to prove the value of rail freight to the community and that RSSB were developing a Rail Social Value Tool so that a monetised social value could be included when making the case for investment in infrastructure.
Noel Dolphin, Managing Director, Furrer+Frey GB, like other speakers, called for a rolling programme of network electrification to decarbonise freight. He explained how his company has been awarded a research grant and is working with Tarmac to demonstrate how freight terminals can be decarbonised through electrification for loading freight trains using retractable overhead lines.

Paul Bradshaw, Regional Manager – Logistics Sourcing UK, Tata Steel, said his company uses more than 100 trains a week already but are ambitious to do more. He outlined the areas where they are looking for collaboration, in the supply of equipment, use of terminals and most importantly in building up new train loads between multiple customers. He encouraged people to speak to him to start this process. Paul also encouraged everyone to challenge the maximum weights and lengths set by Network Rail to be able to increase productivity.

After the meeting, delegates visited the nearby Suez waste compaction facility in Knowsley, Liverpool, where rail freight plays an important role in its operations.

Thanks to all our speakers and to Suez for supporting the event.