RFG was pleased to submit evidence to the National Infrastructure Commission’s Call for Evidence, as part of its inquiry into freight transport in the UK. RFG strongly supports the concept of the NIC’s freight study as an important way of raising the value of freight transport to the UK economy, and looking impartially at the future challenges and barriers.
Freight distribution is critical to UK economic success, for business, importers and exporters, retailers and the general public. Yet there is little political recognition of this and the NIC study is therefore a vital piece of work in highlighting the sector and its infrastructure needs. Rail freight has a long term role to play as part of the UK’s freight distribution network, but to enable it, along with other modes, to be successful, we need to encourage a new approach between Government and the private sector, which is able to focus on the positive benefits as well as externalities of freight transport, and ensure that the supporting policies and infrastructure are in place.
Rail freight is a key component of the overall freight market, representing around 10% of overall surface transport, around 17-18bn tonne-km per annum. In key markets and sectors, rail’s market share is significantly higher, in particular construction materials and intermodal transport, as well as biomass and other bulks. Full details on rail freight statistics can be found on the ORR’s website https://dataportal.orr.gov.uk/. Recent work by KPMG for Rail Delivery Group shows that for the calendar year 2016 rail freight delivered economic benefits totalling £1.7bn per year. This includes productivity gains for British businesses of around £1.17bn and congestion and environmental benefits of over £556m.
We recognise that rail freight will only ever be one component of freight distribution and must work effectively with other modes. Rail has key advantages for certain types of movement, including longer distance trunk haul, high volume distribution and access into urban centres for certain traffic types. Freight infrastructure must therefore best support multi modal transport, linking road, rail, ports and water freight, enabling each to play to their strengths.
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