It’s time for government to: recognise freight’s importance to the economy; protect rail freight investment, and; keep track access charges down. These are the three calls to action that the Freight Transport Association (FTA) has issued to government following Sir Roy McNulty’s Rail Value for Money study.
James Hookham, FTA’s MD of Policy and Communications, said:
"Historically, rail freight has been a poor relation to the politically more visible needs of passenger rail. This is demonstrably unfair; for every two-and-a-half passengers, one tonne of freight is moved. Rail freight already plays a key role in delivering a sustainable supply chain, but with greater investment and a more considered, political approach it can achieve so much more."
The political and economic case for investing in rail freight is sensible: it is environmentally sound, eminently reliable and increasingly popular among the UK’s leading businesses. In its submission, FTA has challenged government to:
Recognise and address the needs of freight Protect funding and delivery of the Strategic Freight Network (SFN) and use its proven management process as a model for future project management.
Limit Track Access Charges – freight can’t sustain higher track charges without loss of business to other modes.
FTA has been a vocal supporter of the public funding made available via the SFN and backed the way this has been managed and allocated. However, fear remains that the impending spending review could see the erosion or removal of this vital source of investment. Track access charges also represent a real concern; any rise acting as a tipping point for those companies unsure about the value of track over tarmac.
"There are suggestions that the Value for Money study might recommend major structural changes for the railway industry, this would be political and modal suicide. The McNulty study should instead build on the success of rail freight in recent years and deliver the three outcomes we have identified in our response."