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Government’s Freight Carbon Review is not ambitious enough according to Campaigners

10 February 2017

Reacting to the publication of the Government’s Freight Carbon Review, Campaign for Better Transport said that the review was welcome but was not ambitious enough, and included proposals for bigger trucks that could add to rather than reduce carbon emissions. 

Philippa Edmunds, Freight on Rail Manager, Campaign for Better Transport said:

“Freight transport is a big contributor to carbon emissions so it’s good that the Government has produced this review, but we think it should be much more ambitious and seek much bigger cuts in carbon emissions from freight and logistics. In particular, the Review underestimates rail freight’s role, in reducing carbon and air pollution - the Government should invest in the rail freight network to increase capacity and ensure affordable rail freight charges so that significant freight can be transferred to rail.

“Even with Brexit, the Government should support EU moves to set standards and reduction targets for trucks, as this could improve HGV efficiency by a third. The car industry did not take developing lower emissions technology seriously until it had reduction targets forced upon it and the same goes for truck manufacturers.

“We are disappointed the Review refers to the so-called carbon reduction benefits of 7ft longer lorries (LSTs), which on past experience could add to carbon emissions by enabling longer journeys – the proposals rely on submissions from haulage operators which have not been independently verified. Existing lorries are travelling around partially empty so it is questionable that bigger ones will be more efficient; the report itself states that the number of empty lorries has increased to almost 30% of all HGVs on our roads. Moreover, longer lorries present serious safety risks on many urban roads.  We are also disappointed the review makes no mention of the benefits of a distance-based lorry charging scheme as this would improve HGV efficiency, reduce air pollution and congestion, improve road safety and allow sustainable modes to compete more fairly.”


For further information please contact Philippa Edmunds on 020 8241 9982 / 07593 976 548 or philippa.edmunds@bettertransport.org.uk

Notes to Editors

  • The Freight Carbon Review and the Rail Freight Strategy are available on the Department for Transport (DfT) website. DfT commissioned research on rail freight growth potential and modal shift is available from http://www.arup.com. The Freight Carbon Review is part of the UK Government’s commitment to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by at least 80 per cent on 1990 levels by 2050 and feeds into the Fifth Carbon Budget, which covers the period 2028-2032.
  • In 2014 carbon dioxide emissions from transport went up from 25 per cent to 28 per cent. Surface transport emissions account for the vast majority (94 per cent) and of that HGVs contribute 17 per cent, despite making up only 5 per cent of road vehicles. Rail freight produces 76% less carbon and so has the potential to save over 4.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. Rail freight produces 15 times less NOX emissions and 90% less particulates than equivalent HGV journey. DfT  Logistics Review  2008
  • Research commissioned by Campaign for Better Transport found that HGVs receive an annual £6.5 billion Government subsidy. Two other separate reports reached a similar conclusion: MDS Transmodal study in 2007 found a very similar amount of underpayment of £6 billion and Transport & Environment research issued in April 2016 found that HGVs were only paying 30 per cent of their external costs.
  • The EU recently announced proposals designed at making truck manufacturers improve truck fuel efficiency, something which they have not independently improved significantly in the past two decades. Many UK road haulage operations have improved their own fuel efficiency by improving driving standards and introducing IT programs, but truck manufacturers have not improved aerodynamics, engine, tyre and transmission technology and need incentives to do so.
  • The DfT’s Rail Freight Strategy acknowledges that there is suppressed demand for rail freight services because of the lack of rail freight network capacity. For example, Felixstowe port which now has 33 daily services in and out of port can fill every additional rail slot which comes free. Further targeted Government investments, such as increasing the capacity on the route between Peterborough and Nuneaton, would bring step changes in the volumes of rail freight and result in huge socio- economic benefits for UK PLC and society.  
  • The claimed safety and efficiency benefits of longer semi-trailers (LSTs) rely totally on information submitted by the haulage operators taking part in the current trial. There is as yet no independent verification of load factors, street furniture damage and minor injuries data which would need to be carried out before the Government can accurately claim the carbon dioxide reductions achieved with LSTs. The Government does not know which roads the LSTs are using and for what distances but is refusing to get the operators to use GPS in order to get accurate data.  See press release  on LSTs http://www.bettertransport.org.uk/media/26-january-2017-longer-lorries and further details at  http://www.freightonrail.org.uk/7ftlongerHGVs.htm
  • Freight on Rail is a partnership between Campaign for Better Transport, the rail freight industry and transport trade unions.