Written evidence from Freight on Rail
Freight on Rail would like to thank the Communities
and Local Government Committee for the opportunity to comment
on the abolition of Regional Spatial Strategies.
Freight on Rail, a partnership of the rail freight
industry, the transport trade unions, works with local and central
Government to promote rail freight, the low carbon, energy-efficient
safe alternative to long distance road freight which reduces road
congestion. The sustained growth of rail's share of consumer traffic
over the past seven years demonstrates the demand for this alternative
mode for trunk haul.
As it stands, there are tensions between the Localism
agenda and economic growth unless strategic planning structures
are put in place as it is difficult to get planning permission,
for a wide range of schemes to help regenerate the economy, if
the schemes are opposed locally.
We believe some form of strategic sub-national transport
planning, in addition to local and national spatial planning is
needed if the Coalition Government is to meet its commitments
to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and build a green economy.
Transport projects are rarely confined to local authority
boundaries which means that without a larger than local spatial
planning structure it will be difficult to plan key infrastructure
projects which cross local authority boundaries This could result
in projects, ranging from, medium-sized and small rail freight
terminals and wind farms not being granted planning permission,
because of local opposition, even though there are wider benefits
to society of these schemes.
We welcome the review of planning taking place and
believe that strategic planning needs to be addressed in the Localism
This level of transport planning is needed where decisions taken
locally have a wider than local impact to give confidence to investors,
infrastructure providers, community initiatives, transport operators,
developers and local enterprises.
A supportive spatial planning framework is needed
if rail freight is to play its role in reducing freight's emissions;
rail freight needs approval for a network of terminals, situated
in the right places to meet market requirements.
Major infrastructure projects such as large Strategic
Rail Freight Interchanges (SRFIs) will, in the longer term, be
addressed through the Major Infrastructure Unit (MIU) which will
replace the Independent Planning Commission. However, the threshold
for schemes being considered by the MIU is 60 hectares and the
majority of rail/road transfer stations are not of this scale.
So we believe that the planning framework needs to recognise the
importance of getting planning permission for medium-sized and
small rail freight terminals without which freight cannot be shifted
to rail and all the economic, social and environmental benefits
to society cannot be realised.
Currently, with the abolition of the RSSs, there
is a planning vacuum as there is neither national or sub national
policy with only local plans, (which everybody recognises are
crucial), in place.
This planning review is an opportunity to institute
guidelines in both the National Networks Policy Statements and
the National Planning framework which tackle climate change and
road congestion. The National Policy Statements should state that
any new freight interchanges/depots should be sited where they
are capable of being rail served. It should also ensure that evidence
based research with quantified study and calculations based upon
modelling is taken into account in any planning approval process.
1. WHY SUB-NATIONAL
To provide a long term land use and transport planning
framework at a sub-national level to complement the national and
local policy framework.
Sets out policies which address the needs of the
region and key sub-regions, in particular investment priorities.
For example to quantify how many terminals are needed.
These policies provide a development framework for
the next 15 to 20 years.
District and Unitary Councils still deal with local
planning applications, but an overarching policy framework ensure
that their decisions do not conflict with the wider principles
to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and stimulate the green economy.
Need to achieve integration between land-use planning,
housing, health, education, energy and waste as well as transport.
Statutory documents ensure coherent policies are
adopted by local authorities when drawing up Local Development
Frameworks (LDF) and with planning applications.
To identify the need for terminals in a particular
area and specify that local authorities must protect suitable
sites and lines under their jurisdiction. This is very important
as there are a limited number of suitable sites for rail freight
terminals as good rail and road access is needed.
Sub-national guidance could provide policies supporting
rail freight which stressed its wider social and economic benefits
to the region and the nation as a whole.
Need to take account of the fact that rail freight
flows normally cross authority and cross regional boundaries.
Other transport planning documents such as Route
Utilisation Strategies (RUS), produced by Network Rail which guides
provision of freight capability on the network use data from spatial
policies including LDFs.
2. THE NEED
LEPs will be crucial for promoting all development
in the regions which does not fall under the auspices of the MIU,
so we believe a spatial planning function is needed within LEPs.
The economic regeneration benefits of rail freight
investment have previously been widely recognised by local authorities
so it is critical that Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) have
a framework to support and fund transport schemes.
Humber Ports upgrades is an example of partnership
of public and private sector Northern Way, a consortium of different
authorities worked with Network Rail & ABP. The Hull Docks
Branch upgradeincreases trains from 12 to 22 per day. (£15.5
million) on the Hull docks branch and improvements in network
resilience with the re-opening of the Brigg Line for freight services.
Local Enterprise Partnerships are well placed to
develop additional transport schemes as long as they are set up
taking into account certain criteria:
(a) LEPs need to cover a sufficiently large geographical
area to be viable for developing transport projects.
(b) LEPS need to have access to funding for rail
freight schemes which regenerate the local economy and relieve
bottlenecks eg the Ipswich Chord supported by Suffolk County Council.
(c) As well as local authorities and private
business, LEPs should include environmental groups, community
amenity groups and trade unions.
(d) Some form of sub-national strategic planning
is needed for economic growth because strategic transport decisions,
which affect several regions, cannot be dictated solely by local
decisions if sustainable economic
3. We believe that it is important that
the rail freight industry is consulted on changes to the planning
regime at all levels including by LEPs to ensure the needs and
opportunities for rail freight are properly considered.
4. We believe that local authorities should
have a duty to co-operate with other authorities to support rail
freight schemes assessed and supported by the rail freight industry
which will help the Coalition Government achieve its sustainable
objectives to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and promote the
5. Data from research collated by the regional
Leaders' Board, which was largely funded by public money, should
be made put in the public domain for free access to the public.
We believe that funding should be made available for resourcing
the updating of this valuable data.
We believe that national infrastructure transport
planning decisions should be made by the Secretary of State for
Transport, in the absence of National Policy Statements. We note
that two applications for Strategic Rail Freight Interchanges
which were examined under the Town and Country Planning act rules,
were turned down by the Secretary of State for DCLG, after the
abolition of RSSs, largely because of local opposition. (In the
case of the Radlett application, the Inspector had recommended
granting Planning Permission for the SRFI.)
7. THE CASE
Rail freight produces 70% less carbon dioxide emissions
than the equivalent long-distance road journeyDfT Logistics
Perspective Dec 2008 P8 section 10
Rail freight is safer than road freight on major
roads as HGVs are over three times more likely to be involved
in fatal accidents than cars due to a combination of size, lack
of proper enforcement of drivers hours, vehicle overloading and
differing foreign operating standards.
SourceRoad Statistics 2008, Tables 3.2 and 3.6, Road
Freight Statistics 2008 Section 5, DfT
Reducing road congestion
An average freight train can remove the equivalent
of 50 long-distance HGVs journeys and the largest freight trains
with aggregates can remove the equivalent of 160 long-distance
HGVs from our roads. Source Network Rail 2010
Members are Direct Rail Services, DB Schenker, Freightliner,
ASLEF, RMT, TSSA, UNITE, Rail Freight Group and Campaign for Better