6 Freight |
53. The amount of freight transported by rail has
grown by 70% in the last twenty years, generating more than £1.5
billion a year in economic benefits for the UK.
Rail freight takes the equivalent of 7.6 million lorry journeys
off our roads each year with potential for growth and further
modal shift. The
Rail Freight Group (RFG) stated in written evidence that the sector
had received "significant investment" in recent control
periods through the Strategic Freight Network and Transport Innovation
Fund. The RFG viewed this investment as "a strong sign of
Government's support for the rail freight sector".
Other witnesses were less enthusiastic. Lindsay Durham, Head of
Rail Strategy at Freightliner, stated that the Government's support
was "fairly low-key".
In her oral evidence, Maggie Simpson, Executive Director of the
Rail Freight Group, said that there was high-level support from
the Government in principle for rail freight, but that this was
not matched by resources or commitment within the Department.
John Smith, Managing Director, GB Railfreight, told us that "the
rhetoric is certainly there, but the intelligent, pragmatic understanding
of what is then needed is sadly lacking".
As a result, he cautioned that freight could get marginalised
as the Department was "almost writing timetables [for passenger
rail] that the infrastructure cannot support".
As a result, we heard, freight was viewed as "an inconvenient
The Secretary of State told us he was "disappointed and sorry"
about the feelings of the freight sector.
54. While welcoming the freight-specific investments
on the network, Freightliner's written evidence argued that the
investment was "still small in comparison to passenger investment".
Freightliner argued that, at most, the freight investment accounted
for just 3.2% of the enhancements fund, while freight trains account
for 7.5% of all train miles on the network.
Nigel Jones, Head of Planning at DB Schenker and the freight representative
for the Rail Delivery Group, cautioned about separating the funding
for freight-specific enhancements from the work on the network
as whole. He argued that while the freight-specific funding appeared
"relatively small [
] the vast majority of general network
investment and enhancement benefits rail freight as much as it
benefits passengers", noting station enhancements as the
only improvement specific to passenger rail.
Mr Jones also said that to gain maximum benefit from freight-specific
investment it needed to be implemented alongside the investment
on the rest of the network. As an example he cited the need for
coordination between the investment on the freight route from
Felixstowe and the Midland Main Line.
Dr Lamonte argued that freight had "played second-fiddle
to passenger services for so long", and called for freight
to be treated as a priority when considering investment in trans-Pennine
Chris Shaw, Leader, North East Lincolnshire Council noted that
while most UK-manufactured cars are exported through Grimsby,
"none of them" travelled to the port by rail.
Cllr Shaw also told us that all trains coming out of Immingham
docks had to go through a junction "still operated by semaphore
55. We heard that the freight operators had been
working far more closely with Network Rail through the Rail Delivery
Group, delivering "big improvements in performance".
The ORR reported that when it had consulted the freight sector
on Network Rail's performance, it had been "very supportive"
of Network Rail.
In turn, we heard that the freight operators had made progress
in releasing unused train paths.
56. We have already noted the concerns of the freight
companies over the proposed increases to track access charges.
While the increases were less than originally proposed, we heard
the charges have still increased by 17% during the time that road
fuel dutythe main charge paid by road hauliershad
been frozen. Furthermore,
our witnesses argued that it was not just the increases that had
affected rail freight, but also the complexity and lack of long-term
certainty over the access charges, compared to fuel duty. Maggie
Simpson described the system as a "hugely complicated beast",
noting that "the spreadsheet of track access charges has
4,000 entries for freight".
In addition, the current system was set up, we heard, without
an incentive for Network Rail to take measures such as investing
in higher-quality trackwhich reduces damage to the track,
allowing for a reduction in track access charges and benefits
for all track users.
57. Our witnesses also highlighted the obstacles
to wider electrification of freight lines. We heard that there
is, at present, no high-powered electric freight locomotive suitable
for the UK available.
Freightliner said that a large order of electric locomotives would
be required to make the cost of designing and testing a new electric
locomotive affordable. Such an order would, Freightliner suggested
"require a step change in the electrification of the UK network
to either be in place or committed".
GB Railfreight has called for Network Rail to "prioritise
the right schemes to encourage freight operators to invest in
electric locomotives now", arguing that while the electric
spine will be useful in the medium term, there are routes for
which electrification would have a more significant impact in
the short term. GB Railfreight identified these routes as Nuneaton
to Hams Hall and Felixstowe to Ipswich, and for CP6, Ipswich to
Nuneaton via Ely.
58. A further issue with freight rolling stock is
that the non-road mobile machinery European Directive requires
any new locomotives purchased after 14 December to meet emission
standards IIIbfor which there are no compliant locomotives
suitable for UK gauges. The Rail Freight Group warned that "it
is difficult to see how manufacturers will respond to this given
the small UK market".
59. Our witnesses were clear that delivering a modal
shift from road to rail for freight would require a supportive
Government policy: through grants, or certainty about access charges.
Lindsay Durham, Head of Rail Strategy, Freightliner Group, told
us that none of the freight sector's customers would "choose
to use rail freight just for the environmental benefits",
stating it was a prerequisite that rail freight had to match or
better road freight on price.
The Secretary of State confirmed that the Department was looking
at road and rail freight together, but added that he was "not
sure" if there was "a grand central plan as such".
60. Rail freight is a crucial part of our economy,
and its needs must be balanced against that of passenger rail.
The Government should produce a freight strategy, considering
road and rail freight together, to ensure a coherent and fair
policy. It must also set out and consult on the practical steps
required to achieve its strategic outcomes, including the modal
shift from road to rail and the decarbonisation of freight transport.
We believe the Office of Rail Regulation must consult on the track
access charging regime with a view to reducing the current complexity.
186 Rail Delivery Group, Keeping the lights on and the traffic moving
(May 2014), pp 4-5 Back
Rail Delivery Group, Keeping the lights on and the traffic moving(May 2014), p 4; Freightliner Group (IRW0038);
>Campaign for Better Transport
Rail Freight Group (IRW0006)
para 3 Back
Freightliner (IRW 38) para 23 Back
Freightliner Group (IRW 38) para 24 Back
Q421 [Lindsay Durham] Back
Rail Freight Group (IRW0006),
para 29 Back
GB Railfreight (IRW0014)
para 3.6 Back
Rail Freight Group (IRW0006) para 31 Back