Smart Transport

Decarbonisation plan risks UK slipping behind EU

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The Rail Freight Group (RFG) is urging the Government to commit to increased use of rail freight as part of its Transport Decarbonisation Plan.

Failure to do so risks rail freight failing to realise its full decarbonisation potential, according to the RFG.

The EU unequivocally stated in December that as ‘a matter of priority, a substantial part of the 75% of inland freight today carried by road should shift onto rail and inland waterways’. The RFG is calling on the Government to match that commitment as a minimum.

The Rail Freight Group is urging the Department for Transport to go further and:

  • Ensure rail freight is represented on the new Net Zero Transport Council
  • Match the EU’s commitment to encourage modal shift and include a target for increasing rail freight within the ‘movement of goods’ strategic priority
  • Create a formal process to take forwards the Government’s commitment to ‘consider how to make rail an even more attractive option for companies to move goods around the country’
  • Include rail freight in the freight portal being developed with the Energy Saving Trust and LowCVP
  • Consider how waste-derived fuels can play a role in decarbonising rail freight prior to electrification

Joe O’Donnell, Head of Policy, Rail Freight Group, said: "The transport decarbonisation plan should maximise rail freight’s role in reducing carbon emissions, given these are around 76% less than HGVs.

“Yet rail freight doesn’t feature in the plan’s current strategic priorities. Missing this opportunity to reduce carbon emissions today could undermine our ability to reach net-zero by 2050. Using more rail freight makes significant carbon savings without waiting for the possible development of new technologies. 

"As a minimum, the Government should match the EU’s commitment to shift freight to more sustainable modes and go further by setting a target to drive change. This will place the UK in a truly world-leading position at the UN's annual climate change conference COP26 in Glasgow." 

The RFG's full response is available on its website:

Watch now: Connecting Policy To Solutions Virtual Conference 2021

Smart Transport Conference returned on June 8th & 9th, to facilitate pivotal discussions on the future of transport. 

The UK’s most senior public and private sector transport leaders discussed the impact of Covid-19, achieving the Government’s decarbonisation ambitions, the need for more efficient living and better health, and much more.

Kwasi Kwarteng, secretary of state at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), who spoke on BEIS's approach to decarbonising transport, particularly the electrification of the vehicle industry. Watch his presentation below:


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