20 May 2011
In its bid to improve the efficiency of the rail network in Great Britain, today's McNulty Rail Value for Money report recognises the efficiencies that rail freight has achieved and has addressed some of the Freight Transport Association's (FTA) concerns about protecting rail freight's interests.
In the report, rail freight is recognised as "an important contributor to the economy, as well as helping to ease congestion on the roads."Christopher Snelling said:
"We support the overarching aim of the McNulty report to reduce the costs of using rail; if moving goods by rail becomes more cost effective, it can only encourage more companies to consider modal switch. When one train can remove 50 lorries from the road network, this would be good news for the supply chain and the environment."
As well as recognising rail freight's vital contribution to the economy and its potential to double in size by 2030, the report does offer some positive thinking on issues that had concerned rail freight users in the deliberations over the report.
The freight industry is concerned that the closer integration of passenger services and infrastructure operations could see freight become a second class citizen on the network, and that the move towards regionalisation could create difficulties for national operators such as freight.
The final report notes that integrated passenger/infrastructure companies should have appropriate incentives to optimise the service to freight. This is a key issue as relying purely on a regulatory mechanism would not guarantee high quality service for freight. The report also says that there should be a national approach to maintenance and renewals planning above any regionalisation, so that freight services can still operate across Britain even when their usual line is closed. This is also to be welcomed.
The report recommends that techniques and methods the rail freight industry has used to create efficiencies should be shared with the rest of the industry.
"We need to reduce the cost of running the rail network if rail freight is to fulfil its ambitions of getting more lorries off the roads. In recognising the high levels of productivity that rail freight has achieved over the last 15 years, the McNulty report gives us hope that increased efficiency can be delivered across the rest of the rail industry. The key test now is how the government will implement the safeguards the report discusses so that freight's interests are not marginalised by the more visible passenger agenda."