The Freight Transport Association has published a document highlighting the importance of rail freight in the UK over the next 30 years, as containerised imports increase and congestion on roads continues to grow.
The publication is targeted primarily at political audiences in a bid to raise the profile of rail freight, which now accounts for 30 per cent of the rail network. It also urges decision makers not to neglect it or focus too heavily on passenger traffic.
According to the report, the government has said it will ensure its policies and regulations within the rail network do not hinder passenger or freight growth by allowing one to grow at the expense of the other.
Rail freight is said to be key in helping to improve UK economic efficiency for manufacturers, retailers and traditional bulk trades, as well as offering significant benefits to the environment, as each extra container train can remove 50 lorries from UK roads.
It has been estimated that rail produces less than one per cent of total CO2 emissions in the UK, while road accounts for 21 per cent.
Since the mid-1990s there has been a 66 per cent increase in the tonne kilometres moved by rail, with major companies such as Marks & Spencer, Superdrug, Argos and Asda increasingly using the mode.
M&S claims 40 per cent of its goods now arrive by rail at its national distribution centre and Asda, a Wal-Mart company, has said it saves four million road miles each year by using rail freight services.
In order to make the rail freight industry a more viable option for businesses, the FTA has advised that operating costs should be reduced, the freight network must be accessible seven days a week, pinch-points on the network need to be removed, terminals should be developed and rail freight services across Europe need to be liberalised.