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Rail freight group seeks £5bn for improvements

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A MASSIVE shortfall in rail freight investment has prompted the launch of a major new campaign to switch goods from road to rail.

Research by the rail freight industry highlights that £5bn of Government cash must be injected into the industry over the next 10 years to create the infrastructure needed to support growth.

The campaign, led by the Confederation of British Industry, the Freight Transport Association, the Rail Freight Group, Railtrack and EWS Railway, aims to persuade the Government to include this cash in its summer transport spending review. The funds, it claims, are vital to provide the infrastructure necessary to persuade business to boostits use of the railways.

The shortfall is highlighted by a recent EWS paperreviewing the growth of rail freight. Freight by rail: The 10 year investment plan includes the results of consultation with business, which shows that to encourage freight away from the roads the rail industry must be more reliable and cost-effective. Investment, it says, is also needed to boost capacity and improve access to the rail network.

The industry hopes to double rail freight traffic over the next 10 years. This, it said, would be achieved with increased network capacity, faster and heavier trains, and improved network access with new terminals, yards and sidings.

Sarah Crockford, European logistics manager at the FTA, said: 'For too long, rail freight has had a reputation for being seen as politically correct rather than logistically sound. We want to establish a more commercially credible cause for rail freight.'

As with all rail travel, freight is growing. Between 1995 and 1998, the volume of freight moved by rail increased by 34%, raising the market share from 5.7 to 7.1%. This is predicted to rise to 8% this year, representing a saving of 725M lorry km.

Copies of EWS paper Freight by Rail: The 10 year investment plan is available from EWS. Contact Sue Evans (0207) 7132426.

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