MPs show cross-party support for rail freight growth ahead of General Election

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Freight operators and their customers gathered with parliamentarians from across the political spectrum at the House of Commons on Tuesday evening (5 March) at the Rail Partners Freight Parliamentary Reception 2024, to discuss how politicians and industry can maximise the opportunity to grow rail freight, now and in the next Parliament.

The Reception was jointly hosted by Martin Vickers MP (Conservative, Cleethorpes, chair of All Party Parliamentary Rail Group), Daniel Zeichner MP (Labour, Cambridge), and Wera Hobhouse MP (Liberal Democrat, Bath), and followed the publication earlier this week of Rail Partners’ report Freight Britain: An engine for green growth.

Andy Bagnall, chief executive of Rail Partners and Andrea Rossi, chief executive of DB Cargo UK both pointed to the more than £3 billion freight operators have invested since privatisation to improve the performance, safety, and reliability of freight services. They called on politicians to create the conditions for growth by creating a long-term framework that supports operators, their customers, and crucially investors by providing certainty, confidence and a level playing field to allow them to compete with road haulage.

The three political speakers all acknowledged the importance of rail freight to Britain, highlighting its ability to reduce congestion, improve air quality and support wider economic growth, committing to supporting rail freight growth.

Andy said: “Growing rail freight compared to other modes of transport should be a national priority regardless of who wins the next election. Not only is rail freight a lower-carbon way of moving goods, contributing to Britain’s net zero ambitions and getting lorries off our roads, but it also contributes £2.45 billion in economic benefits to the UK every year, 90% of which accrue outside of London and the Southeast.

“Rail freight operators want to invest in better, greener trains and freight facilities. To do so they need decision makers to work in partnership with them and create a favourable environment for growth. That means providing confidence around access to the network and investments in capacity.

“Increasing rail freight services has the backing of all the main parties, so government should invest for the long term in tangible support, from targeted infrastructure investment to the right incentives to encourage customers to switch to rail, helping to decarbonise supply chains.”

Andrea commented: “Rail freight has enormous environmental and socio-economic benefits, with freight trains taking millions of HGVs off the roads each year, saving millions of tonnes of carbon in the process and easing congestion on our already crowded roads, leaving us in no doubt at all that freight belongs on rail.

“But we need to get more freight on rail. The Government has set the sector a challenge to deliver 75% growth by 2050. That target is a floor for growth and not a ceiling – we want to smash through it and we will be working with our customers and stakeholders to help deliver it.”

Image credit: Rail Partners

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