Rail freight grants cut a “body blow”

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The Potter Group (TPG) has criticised Department for Transport (DfT) plans to merge rail freight grants with water and road grants, saying the move will see support for rail freight drastically cut by 2007/8. The company adds that the decision threatens to undermine the government’s policies on congestion and the environment, and runs contrary to previously positive commitments to the industry.

TPG chairman Derrick Potter explains: “Rail freight has been a UK success story with a 45% increase over the past decade, due both to government encouragement and around £1.5Bn investment by private companies. But companies need to justify their investment over a number of years and unless government policy stays both supportive and consistent, it will not be easy to persuade more firms to move to rail.”

He continues: “Even modest levels of support as part of a consistent, long-term policy can make a big difference in persuading companies to follow the example of firms such as Argos and Corus to switch to rail freight.”

TPG says rail freight has the production of greenhouse gases because of fewer commercial vehicles, eased road congestion, and saved an estimated 600 lives.

Total funding for all three types of transport, including Channel Tunnel freight, will be slashed to about £25M by 2007/8, little more than the £22M allocated by the Strategic Rail Authority, under the Company Neutral Revenue Support Scheme, for rail freight alone announced last year.

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