Freightliner Calls on the Government to Set an Ambitious Rail Freight Target

Freightliner loco transporting intermodal containers through the countryside.

7th December, 2023

Freightliner calls on the government to set an ambitious rail freight target and save 2.5 million tonnes of carbon emissions 

This weekend, Freightliner, a subsidiary of Genesee & Wyoming Inc. (G&W), will appear on The Climate Show on Sky News, to discuss how growing rail freight volumes and supporting modal shift to rail will support the delivery of the UK’s zero greenhouse gas obligations.

Freightliner calls on government to set a long-term target to treble rail freight volumes by 2050. Such an ambitious target will be a clear statement of intent from Government and provide confidence to the private sector to make significant investments in long-term assets that deliver growth. A trebling of rail freight will mean over 20 million Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) journeys are removed from our busy motorways each year, reducing carbon emissions by 2.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide – the equivalent emissions of someone flying around the world 300,000 times.

Today around 9% of freight is moved by rail in Great Britain, with rail transporting all kinds of essential goods and supplies – from containers to and from the deep-sea ports and inland terminals to bulk freight like construction materials, aggregates, and cement.

Growing the amount of freight transported by rail is vital to meet our net zero greenhouse gas emission target by 2050. Each freight train can remove up to 129 HGVs from Britain’s roads, with container trains removing up to 52 HGVs. For each tonne of freight moved by rail instead of road, carbon emissions are reduced by 76%. Using an electric locomotive there is a clear route to net zero emissions as the national grid is decarbonised.

To make this a reality, Freightliner is calling on the government to support the rail freight industry in 3 key areas:

i) Halve track access charges that freight operators pay to run trains on the network.
ii) Double the modal shift grant that businesses can access to support using rail.
iii) Keep investing in the rail network to ensure that there is sufficient capacity on busy rail corridors to enable more freight trains to be timetabled.

During the Climate Show, Freightliner will highlight many other opportunities and challenges facing the rail freight sector, including the impact of climate change on the resilience of the rail network, the challenges of keeping electric traction running when electricity prices are so high and the need for increased capacity across the UK rail network, especially considering the recent HS2 announcement.

Louise Ward, Safety and Sustainability Director, G&W UK/Europe comments, “We’re not just calling on the government for support, we are also setting our own sustainability targets and roadmaps within Freightliner, for the benefit of our customers and our organisation”.

“This includes expanding our use of electric freight trains as well as investments in alternative fuels, such as hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO), and developing new technologies for future locomotives. As the largest freight operator of electric trains in the UK, we want to increase the number of electric services, but to do so requires electricity costs to be affordable and some of today’s gaps on the rail network to be electrified”.

The programme will be broadcasted on The Climate Show, Sky News at 15:30 and 19:30 on both Saturday 9th December and Sunday 10th December.

Watch our feature on The Climate Show on YouTube

Listen to Freightliner on the Climatecast