Time for government to act on freight

19 November 2015

Mick Whelan, general secretary of ASLEF, the train drivers’ union, has called on the government to step in and help save Britain’s beleaguered rail freight industry. Mick spoke out after John Smith, head of GB Railfreight, warned that Tory plans to close all UK coal-fired power stations by 2025 have left the rail freight industry at a crossroads. Coal has always been a mainstay of freight on rail. According to the Office of Rail & Road, coal accounts for 640 million net tonne kilometres in 2015-16 – 14% of all rail freight traffic.

Mick said: ‘We urgently need a response from the government. Sitting on their hands, and saying “It’s nothing to do with us,” when it’s a direct result of government action, is absolutely unacceptable for the men and women who stand to lose their jobs and the companies doomed to go out of business.

‘This government seems intent on destroying the British rail freight industry. And that’s perverse because everyone knows that putting freight on rail is more efficient and more environmentally friendly as well as making our roads safer.

‘Coal stations are closing more quickly than expected because of the Conservatives’ carbon tax. Along with the contraction of our steel industry, the rail freight sector is seeing the decimation of bulk commodities which have been the core of the industry.’

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