Text Size

Current Size: 100%

Opinion poll reveals public support for rail freight over HGVs

30 June 2017

A poll by YouGov has revealed that almost two thirds (61 per cent) of people would like to see more freight transported by rail, with only two per cent wanting to see more freight on the roads. 

Almost two thirds (63 per cent) of people questioned also supported the idea of increasing government funding to allow more freight trains on the rail network, with only three per cent opposing such measures. 

The poll was commissioned by Campaign for Better Transport.

Philippa Edmunds, Freight on Rail manager at Campaign for Better Transport, 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 key consumer and construction markets, but the potential for further growth 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. 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. 

Philippa added:

“The Government It is currently reviewing the charges it places on rail freight operators to use the rail network. 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.”


For further information please contact Alice Ridley on 020 7566 6495 / 07984 773 468 or alice.ridley@bettertransport.org.uk

Notes to Editors

  • All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,670 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 21st - 22nd June 2017. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). You can see the results of the poll here.
  • Rail freight produces 90 per cent less PM10 particulates and up to 15 times less nitrogen dioxide emissions than HGVs for the equivalent journey.
  • Rail freight produces 76% less carbon dioxide per tonne carried than the equivalent road journey [DfT Rail Freight Strategy, September 2016]. A freight train can remove 77 HGVs from our roads [Network Rail, Value and Importance of Rail Freight, 2013].
  • The latest annual Office of Road and Rail figures show consistent expansion in the key consumer and construction rail freight markets with record levels of traffic, demonstrating the potential and demand for rail freight services. In fact, construction traffic increased by seven per cent and consumer traffic by six per cent in 20016/7, increasing each quarter, compared to the previous year. The final quarter figures show nine per cent consumer and 11 per cent construction traffic increases compared to the same quarter in the previous year.
  • Road hauliers receive a large public subsidy and only pay around 30 per cent of the costs they impose on society in terms of congestion and air pollution.
  • Freight on Rail is a partnership between Campaign for Better Transport, the rail freight industry and transport trade unions.
  • 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).