Freight industry calls for long-term investment

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Channel tunnel

The freight transport industry is calling on the UK government to make a longer-term commitment to planning and investment.It says the extra rail...

The freight transport industry is calling on the UK government to make a longer-term commitment to planning and investment.

It says the extra rail freight capacity is needed to meet a projected shortfall by 2030 as new figures show it is set to double over the next few decades. Demand is being led by retailer-driven food container movements through ports and across the country.

The latest projections from the Rail Freight Group (RFG) and Freight Transport Association (FTA) predict a 30% increase in the weight and distance moved by rail from 2006 to 2015, with it more than doubling by 2030. Movements which combine different forms of transport, so-called ‘intermodal’ traffic (for example, between road, rail and port) are expected to be very much higher, more than doubling by 2015 and showing a five-fold increase by 2030.

While the industry welcomes the £200M already committed to strategic rail infrastructure investment between 2009 and 2014, it wants the next government - Labour or Conservative - to make the longer-term commitment that the sector requires. This could amount to some £600M in extra funding for the period from 2014 to 2030. “Ideally what we want is long-term planning and long-term commitment to planning,” said the FTA’s head of rail freight and global supply chain policy Christopher Snelling.

The biggest capacity shortfalls are predicted on the West Coast Main Line (WCML): from London to Crewe; between London, Tilbury and Southend; and on the North London Lines. These are followed by shortfalls on the WCML from Crewe to Glasgow; the East Coast Main between London and Doncaster; and from the Channel Tunnel to London. The other main shortfall will be from Southampton to the West Midlands, according to the study.

The increases reflect the continuing expansion of trade from continental Europe and further afield, together with a significant use of rail to and from new rail-connected warehouses, such as the Daventry International Railfreight Terminal (DIRFT), where chilled road freight company NFT Distribution plans to open new facilities next year. Snelling hoped the Planning Bill currently before Parliament comes into law to reduce the time taken to get planning proposals approved - particularly those involving future rail freight terminals such as DIRFT.

RFG chairman Tony Berkeley said: “Building new capacity, be it new lines or more capacity on existing lines, takes a long time, possibly 25 years if we follow the example of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link and Crossrail. The year 2030 is only 22 years away, so the time for action in identifying overall rail capacity shortfalls and possible solutions is now!”

James Hookham, FTA policy director, added: “We anticipate an increasing demand from many sectors of industry seeking to reduce their use of congested road networks. Continued investment in the rail network is vital to sustain trade and the economy.”

Follow us

Featured Jobs

View more


Food Manufacture Podcast

Listen to the Food Manufacture podcast