On 5 July 2022, the Great British Railways Transition Team (GBRTT) launched a call for evidence on the rail freight growth target. The deadline for responses is 27 September 2022.

The call for evidence is to assist GBRTT in developing an understanding of the current and future market demand for freight and the capacity for the rail network to service this increasing demand. This call for evidence comes against the backdrop of:

  • wider reform of the UK rail sector under the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail (the “Plan for Rail”) which announced that DfT would introduce a rail freight target and that GBR would have a statutory duty to promote rail freight;  
  • the Transport Decarbonisation Plan which set ambitious targets to decarbonise transport by encouraging modal shift to rail; and 
  • the priorities and proposals set out in the Future of Freight Plan published last month.

Growing the rail freight market is critical as research suggests that we could need to treble the amount of freight carried by rail to meet net zero commitments. 

Strategy for developing a rail freight target

DfT has commissioned GBRTT to:

  • plan and deliver this call for evidence; and
  • use the evidence gathered to provide multiple growth target options and outline the dependencies, trade-offs, costs, and benefits of each.

Areas of focus

The questions comprising the call for evidence are divided into two parts.

Part One: Meeting customer’s needs – Part One focuses on questions that are aimed at freight customers and logistics companies, both within and outside the rail sector, and are designed to supplement GBRTT’s ongoing exercise of developing a comprehensive understanding of market demand and forecast growth. This would ultimately lead to a better understanding of how much of the freight market could transition to rail.

The questions in Part One are organised into the following categories:

  • stakeholder views on the rail industry;
  • current and future market demand;
  • the opportunities and challenges to rail freight growth; and
  • stakeholder priorities and future engagement.

Part Two: Designing a growth target – Part Two contains questions that target a wider audience of stakeholders, again within and outside the rail sector, and seeks to collate views on how valuable rail freight growth is to each respondent. The information collected in Part Two will be used to inform the creation and implementation of a rail freight growth target, and the accountability measures that will be necessary to achieve it. Part Two features a table of example pros and cons of seven potential rail freight growth metrics.

The questions in Part Two are categorised in order for GBR to understand the respondents’ views on:

  • rail freight growth;
  • measuring a growth target; and
  • delivering a growth target.

The responses to this call for evidence will be used alongside economic modelling and consultation with the Freight Operating Companies and the Rail Delivery Group in order to develop credible and deliverable options for a growth target. A summary report of the responses will be published in autumn 2022, with the growth targets being presented to the Secretary of State later this year.