Rail Freight

FTA is campaigning for more freight to be moved by rail, to ease congestion on our busy roads and provide a low-carbon, sustainable transport option. This requires more access to the freight network; improved infrastructure; and more incentives for modal shift.

Rail Freight


With UK roads increasingly congested, and customers looking for more sustainable, low-carbon options to move freight, rail has an opportunity to significantly grow its market share. The demand is there; rail freight is growing again following a period of decline, and Network Rail studies indicate there could be over 30% growth over the next 15 years if enough capacity was provided. Currently, rail accounts for only 9% of domestic freight.  

FTA is campaigning to get more freight on the UK rail network, and to upgrade the rail network to facilitate this. We need more investment in the Strategic Freight Network and more electrification, which could create a truly decarbonised mass-market freight mode within the next 15 years. Freight also need better access to existing capacity, including shift from passenger to freight where freight would be a better use of the network. 


Key facts

  • The number of freight train movements have nearly halved over the last 15 years, from 416,053 in 2003/4 to 220,711 in 2018/19 (ORR).  

  • Rail has maintained its market share compared to road and water over the same period, at around 5% of freight lifted and around 9% of freight moved (ORR) 

  • One in four sea containers arriving at UK ports is carried inland by rail (RFG) 

  • Each freight train takes about 60 HGVs off the road (RFG) 

  • Freight trains achieve over 95% reliability in on-time performance (ORR) 


What is FTA campaigning for?

FTA has four priorities for Rail Freight:

  • Infrastructure: More investment in rail freight infrastructure to complete the Strategic Freight Network 

  • Path to Net Zero: Delivery of “infill” approach to cost-effectively electrify most rail freight by 2035 

  • Access to capacity: Amend industry structures to allow freight to replace passenger services where this would make better use of the network 

  • Fiscal incentives: Retain fuel duty reductions for rail freight and continue mode shift incentive schemes  


Policy Manager



Zoe McLernon

Policy Manager - Multimodal 



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