On the right track: shifting to rail freight

With the shortage of lorry drivers, it could be beneficial to move some road freight to rail freight. This move could mean that cities and roads will become less congested and can help to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Just one freight train can take 76 HGV’s off the road, meaning that the lorries that are sat in depots will no longer be needed, saving road freight businesses money in the long run.

Rail freight

The William-Shapps Plan for Rail Agenda

The William-Shapps Plan for Rail sets out to achieve a much more comprehensive system for railways and rail freight, with a more organised and structured approach. This Plan for Rail aims to create a better system for passengers, as well as freight services. No single rail organisation has been accountable for the train lines, until now.

Great British Railways will now plan and run the network, collect most fare revenue and own the infrastructure. This should create a much simpler railway system and improve the quality of rail freight services. Rail services will now be much more coordinated with each other and will now be integrated better with other public transportation services.

What are the benefits of Rail Freight?

According to Network Rail, rail freight is “vital to Britain’s economic success”, bringing in a whopping £1.7 billion to the economy. Moving cargo by rail also reduces carbon emissions, creating a safer, greener planet. A freight train will produce 76% less carbon emissions compared to road freight, and a freight train can also carry just as much as 110 lorries.

The Director of Nations and Regions for the rail Delivery Group, Robert Nisbet, has said “Rail will play a central role in levelling up Britain and rail freight is already doing some heavy lifting, supporting businesses and jobs across the nations and regions. As we work to secure a green recovery from COVID-19, encouraging more businesses to move their goods by train coupled with a rolling programme of electrification would see rail freight play an even bigger role in helping the nation to meet its carbon commitments.”

Why aren’t we making the most of rail freight?

Many freight companies have been urging the government to unlock the railways full potential in order to better meet targets, provide more reliable service for customers and allow Britain a better chance of reaching its goal of having a net zero emission economy by 2050.

Policy manager of Multimodal at Logistics UK, Zoe McLernon has commented, “Logistics UK is urging the government to unlock capacity for rail freight services to help to meet the target of a net zero emission economy by 2050. Currently taking seven million lorries off the roads each year, rail freight can play a vital role in achieving the UK’s decarbonisation targets, but capacity for freight services is severely constrained. Logistics UK is urging the government to heed the report findings – which revealed that freight services on some underutilised off-peak passenger routes deliver greater economic value than passenger use – and allow freight operators access to these lines.”


In conclusion, moving to have more freight by rail could steady supplies and could also mean less congested cities and roads. With the shortage of lorry drivers, moving to use the railways more could relieve some of the stress that road freight industries currently encounter.