Freight grant cut will mean reduction in rail traffic

Loss of financial support could see more short-run freight workings switch from rail, leading to increased pollution and more road congestion.

By ‘Industry Witness’

OPPORTUNITIES for rail to compete in the movement of freight traffic over shorter distances have been reduced as a result of a cutback in the budget available to operators applying to use the Modal Shift Revenue Support (MSRS) grant.

In the current year, £20 million was awarded in respect of 41 traffic flows hauled by DB Cargo, Eddie Stobart, GB Railfreight, Freightliner and JG Russell. For reasons of commercial confidentiality the details of individual movements are not published, but most are for intermodal traffic over shorter distances where road transport is cheaper. In total, the effect was to remove more than one million lorry journeys from the road network.

Rail often faces additional costs for terminal operations and road delivery to customers compared to a road haulier operating from a port, manufacturing plant, or quarry direct to the customer premises.

In the next financial year from April, the Department for Transport has reduced the funds available to
£15.7 million, with a further reduction to £15.2 million in the following year. The 21% cut suggests the result will be some 200,000 additional Heavy Goods Vehicle movements on the roads in the next year. It is thought by rail experts that domestic intermodal services will be most at risk of transfer to road, such as Tesco operations.

Read more in the April issue of RE – out now!

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