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New research shows just 2,000 less HGVS would mean a ten per cent reduction in air pollution

20 December 2017

New research has found that switching more freight to rail on four of England’s most heavily congested freight routes has the potential to reduce air pollution and improve road safety.

The research, by consultants MTRU for Campaign for Better Transport, found that removing just 2,000 lorries a day from four specific roads would result in a ten per cent reduction in NOx and a seven per cent reduction in particulates from all road traffic in each of the four routes studied, with a 2.5 per cent reduction in carbon emission across all four routes.

In addition, 18 fewer people would be killed or seriously injured in crashes involving an HGV on these routes every year.

The research examined the pollution and safety benefits of upgrading existing rail lines four routes: the A14 between Felixstowe and the Midlands, the A34 from Southampton to the Midlands, and the M6 and M62 motorways, which together carry around 37,500 HGVs every day. It builds on previous research by MTRU which showed the congestion benefits of removing HGVs from the same routes.

Philippa Edmunds, Freight on Rail Manager, said:

“This research shows that by upgrading the existing rail lines which run parallel to these motorway routes would allow large numbers of lorry loads to be transferred to rail, easing congestion, improving air quality and reducing road collisions.

“In particular the effect on reducing particulates is very important because, whilst the latest euro VI engine technology reduces exhaust particulates, non-exhaust particulates pollution from HGV tyres and brakes remain a serious problem for which there is no current solution, especially for trucks which have large tyres.

“The Government should use the findings of this research to feed into its future road and rail investment strategies and in particular to support continued investment in the Strategic Rail Freight Network.”


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

Notes to Editors

  1. Read the full research here.
  2. By 2025, non-exhaust particulates will almost certainly form the vast majority of particulates from road transport. Even engine technology improvements they will remain a problem for HGVs because of the lack of solutions for particulates from tyres and brakes and resuspension of already deposited particulates and similar material.
  3. An assumption was made that the proportion of Euro V and Euro VI HGVs in the HGV traffic mix by 2025 – the most realistic finish date for the neccessary rail freight upgrades, would be 86 per cent EuroVI and 14 per cent EuroV. This is key because HGV Euro VI engines produce considerably less NOX emissions than earlier models.
  4. Figures used to calculate estimated reductions in people killed or seriously injured are based on the reduction in vehicle kms achieved in the four corridors as a result of the shift to rail of 2,000 HGVs each day doing an average distance of 200 kms per day.
  5. Previous research by consultants MTRU for Campaign for Better Transport and sponsored by the Department for Transport, looked at the economic benefits of using the railways to solve road congestion and improve productivity. The press release on this research can be found here.
  6. 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).