Union says moving freight on rail would be more efficient than road tax proposals

01 July 2005

Rail union ASLEF said today that government’s ‘pay as you go’ proposals would do little to solve the real problems of the environment and road congestion.

‘The most obvious way to cut road traffic is to make full use of alternative transport methods,’ said the union’s acting General Secretary Keith Norman. ‘The most evident method of cutting harmful emissions from road transport is to use trains – especially for freight. The full use of railways for this purpose would make a real and immediate improvement to both congestion and the environment.’

The government’s proposed ‘pay as you go’ road charges are primarily aimed at cutting road congestion. Keith Norman says, ‘The most efficient way the DTi can achieve this is to give encouragement to business to move freight by rail. 

‘This is surely a better approach than trying to coerce private drivers to stop using their cars. 

‘It is a fact that the average freight train can remove 50 HGVs journeys from our roads. An aggregates freight train can remove 120 HGV journeys from our roads. ‘Now that would be progress – achieved economically and efficiently.’

The union argues that movement of freight to rail and the setting up of transport hubs would offer important advantages as well as the relief of road congestion. Government figures show that the 73% increase in road transport between 1980 and 2002 meant a 39% increase in greenhouse gas emissions from transport – and transport accounts for 26 per cent of total UK emissions. 

They also show that lorries are involved in 22% of fatal crashes – but only account for 7% of road traffic. 

‘Encouraging freight on rail would cut road congestion, cut fatal accidents and improve the environment,’ says Keith Norman. ‘It’s a cost effective solution that can be achieved voluntarily and would be more effective than the ‘pay as you go’ solution. 

‘We call on the government to leave the motorist alone and get on with more radical and integrated solutions. Feight on rail has to be a major part of that.

‘We need to provide alternatives to road travel – not seek to abolish it.’

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