One of the most popular questions posed regarding transport is: “Why can’t more freight be carried on the railways, so there are fewer lorries on the road?” Indeed, if a transport minister were to deliver an unequivocal promise to make the switch happen, he or she would be universally feted.
Governments over the years have paid lip service to the idea, but delivered little to achieve any significant shift from road to rail. Despite years of discussion, rail freight has continued to decline and has become something of a niche activity with a strong presence in a very limited number of markets.
The problem has always been that, while everyone seemed to agree that more freight on rail would be a good thing, there was always a ‘but’ and there was never a shortage of ‘experts’ to explain why it was not possible.
However, the concept has been given a boost recently by the difficulties of the road haulage industry with driver shortages resulting from Brexit and, in the short term (we hope), the pandemic.