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

07 March 2024
  • The Rail Partners Freight Parliamentary Reception 2024 at the House of Commons featured speeches from Rail Minister Huw Merriman MP, Lib Dem transport spokesperson Wera Hobhouse MP, and Bill Esterson MP, Shadow Roads Minister (on behalf of Louise Haigh, Shadow Transport Secretary) to discuss their plans for rail freight ahead of the general election  
  • The event follows the publication of Rail Partners’ report, Freight Britain: An engine for green growth which outlines a policy framework to support the delivery of rail freight growth  
  • Both the Rail Minister and Shadow Transport Minister made clear that rail freight growth is a priority to support wider economic and environmental objectives.

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 £3bn 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.

Rail Partners’ chief executive Andy Bagnall 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 £2.45bn 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 Rossi, CEO, DB Cargo UK said:

‘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.’

Notes to editors

Access photos from the reception here: https://media.railpartners.co.uk/resources/f/rail-freight-parliamentary-reception-2024

Download Freight Britain: An engine for green growth at railpartners.co.uk/freight-britain

Reception speakers: 

  • Andy Bagnall, Chief Executive, Rail Partners 
  • Andrea Rossi, CEO, DB Cargo UK 
  • Huw Merriman MP, Minister of State for Rail and HS2 
  • Bill Esterson MP, Shadow Rail Minister who stepped in for Louise Haigh MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Transport 
  • Wera Hobhouse MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Energy and Climate Change and Transport 

 About Freight Britain: An engine for green growth 

Rail Partners’ report, Freight Britain reiterates the significant benefits that rail freight delivers today, outlining how there is significant room for growth. The sector contributes more than £2.45bn to the UK economy every year and a single freight train can remove up to 129 HGVs from the road network, so it is necessary to create the conditions for rail freight growth. The report follows the government announcing long term target to grow rail freight by no less than 75% by 2050 across Great Britain. 

The rail freight sector has ambitious plans to grow, but growth cannot be taken for granted and a framework is needed to promote private sector investment and make rail the mode of choice for prospective freight customers, by providing certainty and confidence to the sector. As such, freight operators are calling on politicians to level the playing field between rail and road to support modal shift, as currently, the gap between road and rail costs is increasing and this must be addressed to secure future growth. 

Rail Partners has identified a series of policy interventions that maximise the complementary relationship between public and private investment that would provide private sector operators with the confidence to build on their track record of investing to grow their businesses. In return this would lead to fewer HGV movements, reduce carbon emissions, and deliver significant economic growth across Great Britain.  

About Rail Partners

Rail Partners exists to make the railway better by harnessing the expertise and creativity of private sector operators for the benefit of those who use the railway, passengers and freight customers, and those who pay for it, including taxpayers. 

Rail Partners provides advocacy and policy solutions for its private sector passenger owning Group and freight company members. Rail Partners additionally provides technical services to train operating companies in both the public and private sectors. 

A full list of our owning group and freight operating members can be found here: https:/www.railpartners.co.uk/the-partners 

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