Railways: Freight

Department for Transport written question – answered on 16th September 2020.

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Photo of Lord Greaves Lord Greaves Liberal Democrat

To ask Her Majesty's Government what proposals they have to increase the proportion of freight traffic within Great Britain that is carried by the railways.

Photo of Baroness Vere of Norbiton Baroness Vere of Norbiton Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The Government is committed to further unlocking the economic and environmental benefits rail freight can deliver through its key role in reducing carbon emissions and its contribution to alleviating congestion on Britain’s roads. As part of this ambition we are exploring a range of proposals aimed at increasing the proportion of freight traffic that is carried on our railways, and helping the sector recover from the impact of COVID-19.

The Department has invested over £235 million in the Strategic Freight Network between 2014-2019. So far in Control Period 6 (2019-2024), we have approved over £40 million of funding in projects across the country (with further projects being considered) to improve the capacity and capability of the rail network for freight and support its future growth. In addition, officials are preparing proposals in relation to gauge and capacity for rail freight on existing trans-Pennine routes to and from various ports in the North of England. This will be for consideration by Ministers for further development work, to evaluate options and costs, and develop a recommended programme.

The Government also supports the development of an expanded network of Strategic Rail Freight Interchanges (SRFIs) - which enable freight to be transferred more efficiently between transport modes - to better deliver the environmental and economic benefits rail freight offers. Furthermore, Government supports the development of an expanded network of SRFIs to grow intermodal rail freight, as outlined in the National Network National Policy Statement.

The Government grant schemes – principally the Mode Shift Revenue Support Scheme (MSRS) – incentivise the movement of freight by rail and water. These grants usually help to remove around 900,000 HGVs off the road each year. The Government increased these schemes’ funding by 28%, to £20 million, in 2020/21 and remains committed to them to continue to support rail freight growth.

Finally, we are in close dialogue with Network Rail (NR) to explore possibilities for longer and heavier freight trains to enable more freight to run by rail.

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