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Release ID: 4384

Rail freight can save 4.6m tonnes CO2 pa for Copenhagen agenda

The Rail Freight Group today (Friday 13 November) issued its challenge to Government to incorporate the CO2 savings to be achieved by growing rail freight into its Copenhagen commitment. The UK and EU are offering ambitious targets for carbon reduction which will require action in all sectors of the economy including transport.

Switching freight from road to rail reduces CO2 emissions by 70% so that , by 2030, rail freight could save 4.6 million tonnes of CO2 per year for the UK alone.

At Copenhagen, the UK/EU will offer a 20% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020, rising to 30% where there is a successful outcome to international climate negotiations. The UK is already committed in statute to an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050.

Meeting these targets will require action in all sectors including transport. Government data shows that transport represents around 23% of UK domestic CO2 emissions and within that, freight transport contributes just over 30%, which comes almost entirely from road freight.

Moving freight by rail gives a 70% reduction in CO2 emissions compared to the equivalent road journey. Current rail freight is estimated to remove around 6.7m lorry journeys per year from the roads saving around 2.3 million tonnes of CO2. With rail freight volumes forecast to double by 2030 the carbon savings will multiply and could be even greater with possible long term moves towards a lower carbon electrified rail network.

Encouraging modal shift from road to rail is an easy and quick way to secure significant reductions in transport carbon emissions. But for rail freight to thrive it must receive strong political support and the necessary investment to ensure it can offer an efficient and competitive alternative to road. UK and EU Governments must take action to promote rail freight and encourage growth as an alternative to road. RFOA and RFG’s Manifesto for Rail Freight sets out in detail the support that is necessary, and the benefits that will be delivered.

A report published by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in early 2009 states ‘as an option for the reduction of carbon emissions, the rail freight sector is leagues ahead of all the other options available. The target should therefore be to deliver far greater levels of growth in the rail-freight sector than are currently projected.’

RFG Chairman Tony Berkeley said ‘NGOs, Governments and the European Commission must include sustainable rail freight in the agenda for the forthcoming climate change discussions leading up to Copenhagen and thereafter. Rail freight needs support, encouragement and liberalisation and can then deliver the carbon reductions and other environmental benefits which are not attainable by road freight.

A saving of 4.6m tonnes of CO2 a year is surely worth having, and is probably more easily achieved that any other option.’

Further information RFG chairman Tony Berkeley +44 7710 431 542,
59 Piccadilly Manchester M1 2AQ
Telephone: +44 (0)161 408 0542
Fax: +44 (0)870 432 1732

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