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New National Infrastructure Commission Freight study welcomed by transport campaigners

22 November 2017

Responding to today’s Budget announcements Philippa Edmunds, Freight on Rail Manager, Campaign for Better Transport said: 

“Freight has been overlooked for too long so this study is welcome. There needs to be a transformation in the way freight is delivered across the country if road congestion and pollution are to be reduced. Funding and fiscal mechanisms need to ensure that rail and road are treated equally so that as much long distance freight can be moved by rail as possible. 

“The study [1] must focus on the importance of multi-modal freight options to support business productivity in a sustainable way. As part of this study, it must take into account the lack of parity between HGVs and rail freight. HGV market is very competitive but not efficient so it is inflicting unnecessary adverse impacts on the economy and society.

“Currently, HGVs only pay around 30 per cent of the adverse costs they impose on the economy and society [2] which makes it difficult for rail freight to compete unless its socio-economic benefits are fully recognised by the Government.

“Larger HGVs will continue to use the current engine technology well into the next decade according to the DfT Freight Carbon Review. As this is the market suitable for rail, there is a significant opportunity to reduce transport emissions and congestion by shifting freight from large trucks to rail. There is suppressed demand for rail, caused by lack of space on the rail freight network, which needs upgrading.”

Therefore the study must examine the following:  

  • How the current funding and fiscal arrangements do not incentivise efficient HGV operations which cause unnecessary congestion, road infrastructure damage, pollution and extra collision costs to the economy and society.
  • How a distance based lorry road user charging system could improve efficiency and reduce pollution. The Government has committed to reviewing its HGV levy next Autumn.
  • How the current funding mechanisms disadvantage rail freight.
  • The extent to which the transfer to rail freight can reduce road congestion, collisions and pollution on key transport corridors where there are parallel rail routes.[3]
  • The importance of rail/road transfer terminals and their role in producing efficient freight services. Rail served urban consolidation centres can receive long distance freight moved by rail for onward urban transport in low emissions electric vehicles. 


For further information please contact Richard Watkins on 020 7566 6494 / 07984 773 468 or richard.watkins@bettertransport.org.uk

Notes to Editors 

[1] Autumn Budget 2017 - The Chancellor commissions a new study for the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC)

[2] Campaign for Better Transport commissioned research, using Department for Transport figures, found that HGVs receive a £6.5 Billion annual subsidy. Dangerous, dirty and damaging - New research reveals impact of HGVs 

 DF files: 2015 addendum to 'Heavy Goods Vehicles - do they pay for the damage they cause?'   

New research: Britain’s lorries receiving £5bn annual subsidy

Metropolitan Transport Research Unit report for Campaign for Better Transport: Heavy Goods Vehicles - do they pay for the damage they cause?

(a)    MDS Transmodal study in 2007 which found a very similar amount of underpayment: £6billion.  

(b)   (b) Transport & Environment Research April 2016 which also found that HGVs across the EU were only internalising around 30 per cent of their costs. 

[3] Read Campaign for Better Transport’s press release -  Invest in rail freight to cut road congestion, research shows

[4] Campaign for Better Transport is the UK's leading authority on sustainable transport. We champion transport solutions that improve people's lives and reduce environmental damage. Our campaigns push innovative, practical policies at local and national levels. Campaign for Better Transport Charitable Trust is a registered charity (1101929).