Rail freight now contributes an estimated £1.6 billion worth of benefits to Britain’s economy every year, a new report shows.
Research carried out in 2013 estimated that freight delivers productivity gains for British businesses and congestion and environmental benefits totalling over £1.5 billion per year. Continued growth in the transport of goods by rail since then means these benefits are now estimated to be worth over £1.6 billion annually.
The new Rail Delivery Group (RDG) report sets out how:
· Each year the five major rail freight operators transport goods worth over £30 billion, including supermarket groceries, luxury cars for export and half of the fuel used to generate electricity;
· There has been a 30% rise in the movement of containers by rail since 2006, fuelled by the growing consumer goods market – one in four containers entering the country is now moved by rail;
· Train numbers have fallen by 30% since 2003, yet freight tonnes lifted has increased by 30%, resulting in an increase in tonnes per train of over 80%;
· Each train removes up to 76 lorries from Britain’s roads, resulting in 1.6 billion fewer HGV kms a year;
· Each tonne transferred by rail rather than road cuts carbon emissions by up to 76%.
The growth in volumes has been possible through significant investments made by freight operators as well as ports, terminals and other customers, Network Rail and government. That in turn has allowed the sector to be more competitive, particularly with road transport, and savings to be passed down to the freight customer. The resulting productivity benefits for UK plc are valued at over £1.1 billion per year, helping to underpin economic growth.
Freight also has a key part to play in meeting governments’ environmental targets, particularly since investment in the network and new rolling stock has resulted in more efficient, longer and heavier trains. Alongside reduced congestion and improved safety, the environmental benefits are worth over £0.5 billion a year to the UK economy.
With continued investment from all parties it is forecast that the annual economic benefits generated by freight could rise to nearly £2 billion by 2023.
Peter Maybury, Chairman of Freightliner and the RDG freight group, said: “Investment and a commitment to service excellence has helped our sector to grow by 80% in the last 20 years, and increase its share of the market for transporting goods. The growth seen in the last 12 months underlines how vital the sector is to maintaining Britain’s economic competitiveness.
“Freight operators also play a key role in supporting the operation and reliability of GB rail, moving materials needed for crucial network improvements and keeping lines clear in times of severe weather.
“Greater certainty in the long-term charging and regulatory regimes will help provide the stability needed to ensure continued investment in the future, and allow us to build on our success and further increase the benefits of rail freight to the UK economy.”