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Rail freight to double by 2030

increased rail capacity essencial for UK economy. New forecasts of demand for rail freight to 2015 and 2030 are published by the Rail Freight Group and Freight Transport Association today (14 August).

The forecasts show a 30 per cent increase in tonne km from 2006 to 2015 and more than doubling by 2030. However, the growth in intermodal traffic is forecast to be very much higher: more than doubling by 2015 and a five-fold increase by 2030. This reflects continuing expansion of trade from continental Europe and further afield, plus a significant use of rail to and from new rail-connected warehouses.

These figures update the 2006 forecasts and have been produced using the GB Freight Model used by the Department for Transport. The rail freight industry, operators and customers have also been fully consulted and support these findings.

The forecasts have also been allocated to specific rail routes used at present and demand compared with existing capacity, assuming no change in the number of passenger trains on those routes. Unsurprisingly, the main rail freight flows are on the routes between centres of economic activity and to and from ports.

By 2030, there is forecast to be shortfalls in capacity on many routes, even assuming no increase in passenger train numbers. The greatest shortfalls are on the following routes, noted in trains per day (sum of both directions):

200 – West Coast Main Line (WCML): London to Crewe
London, Tilbury and Southend and North London Lines

100 – WCML Crewe to Glasgow
East Coast Main Line (ECML): London to Doncaster
Channel Tunnel to London

50 – Southampton to West Midlands

Many other routes also show an excess of freight demand over capacity. For example, Great Eastern main line to Ipswich, which would be resolved by a full upgrade of the Felixstowe-Peterborough-Nuneaton direct route.

RFG Chairman Tony Berkeley commented, 'These new forecasts demonstrate the urgent challenges facing the rail industry and Government in meeting the future demand for rail freight.

'Building new capacity, be it new lines or more capacity on existing lines, takes a long time, possibly 25 years if we follow the example of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link and Crossrail. The year 2030 is only 22 years away, so the time for action in identifying overall rail capacity shortfalls and possible solutions is now!'

James Hookham, FTA Policy Director said, 'UK rail freight growth has been amongst the highest in the EU. Rail will play an increasingly prominent role in moving containers to and from ports, and we anticipate an increasing demand from many sectors of industry seeking to reduce their use of congested road networks. Continued investment in the rail network is vital to sustain trade and the economy'.

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