Industry welcomes UK rail freight strategy
The UK’s new rail freight strategy sets out how the sector can grow despite the erosion of some key markets. Industry experts have largely welcomed the plans, which look at vital opportunities for relieving pressure on road networks in the UK and mainland Europe.
The strategy highlights how freight ‘is one of the great success stories of rail privatisation’, and has ‘transformed a sector that had been in steady decline into one which in 20 years has doubled its share of the land-based freight market’, reports Railway Gazette.
Innovation and skills
Developed in partnership with operators, customers and the UK’s infrastructure manager Network Rail, it outlines four main challenges: A need to bring what is a competitive industry together to sell its collective benefits to potential customers, decision-makers and the public; track access charging; a demand for innovation and skills; and network capacity
Maggie Simpson, Executive Director of trade association the Rail Freight Group, said: “This (strategy) will help to provide the stable and supportive environment operators need. The rail freight sector is changing and freight operators and their customers are working to deliver growth in new and existing markets and to be fit for the future.”
While traditional markets such as coal and steel have eased, the strategy also highlights environmental issues and key partnerships between UK and European operators. Digital signalling advances such as ERTMS, it adds, has the potential to unlock existing constraints on capacity and enable future growth in the rail freight market.
The Freight Transport Association said it was ‘optimistic’ that the strategy would incentivise the logistics sector to work with the rail industry on new intermodal models. “The strategy highlights the environmental benefits of a greater modal shift from road to rail and recognises the scope for rail and the wider freight industries to collaborate and explore innovative new models,” said Chris MacRae, FTA’s Head of Rail Freight Policy.