Rail freight received a reassuring boost today with the news that the English revenue support grant has escaped drastic cuts. The Freight Transport Association (FTA) was pleased to learn that £19m of funding will be allocated next year, just £1m down from previously, with the same annual amount recommended for the following two years.
Chris MacRae, FTA’s Rail Freight Policy Manager, said: "Clearly, even in these tough trading conditions the government recognises the environmental benefits that modal shift can bring. The grant will support the market in its consideration of environmentally-friendly and cost effective alternatives to our congested roads and in turn generate greater use of railways and waterways."
Co-modality, where transport modes work together to optimise the supply chain, can work to the benefit of businesses, logistics providers and the environment. Rail is a key feature of a co-modal future. The political and economic case for investing in rail freight is clear: it is environmentally sound, eminently reliable and increasingly popular among the UK’s leading businesses. As such, FTA was buoyed by news that the funding and delivery of the Strategic Freight Network (SFN) is to be protected in England. As a passionate advocate of the SFN in the run up to the announcement, FTA considers it a vital source of investment which will improve connectivity between the UK and Europe, making domestic business more competitive.
However, north of the border it is a different story with grants for Scottish modal shift being significantly cut with the environmental efficiency budget being cut from £10.3m in 2010-2011 to £2.9m in 2011-2012.
MacRae concluded: "On the whole, FTA has to welcome the UK government’s support for carbon efficient transport, but we would issue the caveat that rail and coastal waterborne movements really excel when the distances are increased. By not extending the same funding for rail freight services into Scotland the Scottish Government is in effect limiting the advantages that modal shift could yield."