FTA shapes future of rail freight in Wales

Wednesday 11 November 2009

Wider rail tracks, greater load capacity and more freight terminals – allowing goods to be exchanged between road and track – are essential if rail freight is to achieve its true potential in Wales.  That is what the Freight Transport Association told the National Assembly for Wales' Enterprise and Learning Committee today (11 November) in a meeting to discuss the future of railway infrastructure.

Rail freight already plays an important role in moving bulk goods, such as aggregates and coal. However, its growing reputation as a reliable way to move manufactured goods while massively reducing carbon emissions and transport costs has made it the transport mode of choice for a growing number of businesses and retailers.

Christopher Snelling, Head of Supply Chain Policy at the FTA, said:

“Rail freight not only represents a great opportunity for businesses in Wales to improve their supply-chain efficiency, it also provides a sure-fire way to reduce our overall carbon footprint.  FTA’s role in shaping the future of rail freight during this consultation and information gathering process will hopefully lead to a rail freight network Wales can be truly proud of.”

Of the various challenges facing rail freight, one of the most controversial is local opposition to intermodal rail freight terminals. Most goods are travelling to shops or distribution centres which do not have rail access.  It is vital, therefore, that land is made available for suitably-located rail freight terminals. This will in turn have the environmental benefit of taking more lorries off congested, local roads.

Snelling concluded:

“There are some practical barriers to rail freight’s development in Wales, but they are by no means insurmountable.  For example, a seamless and optimised service will need a universal gauge clearance to support the growing popularity of container movements, particularly those coming out of Port Talbot.

“But we are not talking about investing in an expensive high-speed line here, freight has no need for one.  We are talking about relatively small, practical changes that, if applied correctly, will look like small beer compared to the environmental and business benefits rail freight delivers.”


Notes for editors

FTA was invited to give evidence to the National Assembly for Wales’, Enterprise and Learning Committee’s “Future Railway Infrastructure in Wales” inquiry.  Stephen Kelly, FTA’s Head of Policy for Wales, and Christopher Snelling, FTA’s Head of Global Supply Chain Policy, gave oral evidence at the Senedd, Cardiff Bay on Wednesday 11 November.

FTA represents over 14,000 companies engaged in the transport of freight both domestically within the UK and internationally.  Their interests range from those of operators, carriers, freight service providers, through to customers – suppliers of raw materials, retailers, manufacturers and wholesalers, covering all modes of transport – road, rail, air and sea.

Every tonne of freight carried by rail produces at least two thirds less carbon dioxide than if moved by road.  A typical freight train can remove 50 lorries from the road – congestion on the roads currently costs British business £17 billion per annum.

Freight traffic, in terms of distance travelled, accounts for approximately 10 per cent of the use of the rail network, when judged by weight that increases to around 30 per cent. In terms of trains per day there are some 1,000 freight trains and around 19,000 passenger trains.  Freight is a significant player in the rail industry and its needs should be taken into account accordingly.


FTA Press Office

01892 552255