Operators call for large increase in rail freight

Train operators are calling for the volume of freight carried by rail to be trebled by 2050.

The call has come from Rail Partners, which is a successor to the Rail Delivery Group and lobbies on behalf of the operators for the greatest possible amount of commercial freedom, now that franchises have been abolished.

Rail Partners says it exists to ‘make the railway better by harnessing the expertise and creativity of private sector operators for the benefit of those who use the railway and those who pay for it, including taxpayers’, and is responding to the call for evidence from the Great British Railways Transition Team about targets for rail freight growth.

Its director of policy John Thomas says: ‘As we look to the reform of our railway, we cannot afford to underplay or leave to chance the opportunity to grow this sector. We must be ambitious and capture the demand we know exists and in doing so support net zero ambitions and spread economic benefits throughout the country.

‘There has been a subtle but important policy shift towards the sector in recent years, compounded by Brexit, the pandemic and in light of the legislative commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

‘The market itself is also responding as customers look for low carbon routes. This is most notable in the tone and content of the Plan for Rail, published in May 2021 which our members welcomed. In particular it commended freight operators for the resilience they demonstrated during the pandemic to ensure that key freight flows were maintained, and the significant agility that rail freight, as a largely private sector industry, has shown in responding to changing customer demands.’

He adds that a ‘relatively small’ amount of public support is needed: ‘We want to see a wider use of incentives to help make rail the mode of choice for potential customers. An example is the Mode Shift Revenue Support grant, which has been successful in attracting price sensitive container traffic to rail from road.’ 

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