Government recognises the economic and environmental benefits of rail freight; the sector plays an essential part of the UK economy and rail is one of the greenest modes of transport. Rail freight removes around 7 million lorry journeys, equating to roughly 1.5 billion lorry kilometres, annually.
Government does not set an explicit target for modal shift from road to rail. However, it takes significant steps to support modal shift, including in relation to container traffic. This includes providing freight grant schemes to support the carriage of freight by rail and water on routes where road haulage has a financial advantage. These schemes help to remove around 900,000 lorry journeys a year from Britain’s roads. Overall, funding for this scheme has been increased to £20m for 2020/21, a rise of 28% from 2019/20. Government has also invested over £235m in the Strategic Freight Network between 2014-2019 to improve network capacity to enable more goods to move by rail.
The Government is currently carrying out a detailed study of the potential for additional freight movement that could be accommodated on the conventional rail network from released capacity due to HS2. This study will be concluded by the end of March 2020. It will provide a quantification of the potential additional freight tonnes that could be moved from roads, and will also quantify the environmental benefits of this mode shift.