Rail freight hubs. Image: Network Rail

UK public favour rail freight over roads, says survey

Almost two thirds of people (61 per cent) questioned in a survey would like to see more freight transported by rail in the UK, with only two per cent wanting to see more on the roads. 

YouGov’s poll also revealed that 63 per cent of people questioned supported the idea of increasing central government funding to allow more freight trains on the rail network, with only three per cent opposing such measures.

More government funding

The online survey was commissioned by a leading transport pressure group, the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT). Philippa Edmunds, Freight on Rail manager at the CBT, said: “This poll shows that the majority of the public support moving more freight by rail and want more government funding to assist this.

“The Government is committed to reducing harmful emissions and improving air quality, and rail freight is pivotal to this. Rail freight might not be able to vote, but our opinion polling shows that the public support rail over road when it comes to freight.”

Rail freight has seen consistent year-on-year growth in today’s key consumer and construction markets, in place of traditional and falling markets such as coal. The potential for further growth however is constrained by the current freight network, meaning that demand continues to outstrip supply. In addition, HGVs receive a large subsidy from the Government, which adds another barrier to enabling rail freight to compete on a level playing field.

‘Tip the balance’

The Office of Road and Rail is currently reviewing rail freight charges, and campaigners are concerned that any increases will further tip the balance in favour of road freight and prevent future expansion of rail freight. Of the people questioned for this poll, only around 1 in 10 (12 per cent) were in favour of increasing rail freight charges. This contrasts starkly with Germany, which recently announced it was going halve track charges for rail freight traffic as part of a collective effort to road traffic and reduce air pollution.

“The Government is currently reviewing the charges it places on rail freight operators to use the rail network,” added Ms Edmunds. “If it chooses to increase these charges, rail freight is likely to decline and we will see more lorries on our already congested roads, something that seems to have little public support.”

A total of 1,670 people were questioned for the survey on June 21/22. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). You can see the full results of the poll here.

Author: Simon Weedy

Simon is a full-time journalist for RailFreight.com – a dedicated online platform for all the news about the rail freight sector

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