Shifting from road to rail on congested freight routes could improve air quality

Shifting from road to rail on congested freight routes could improve air quality, new research suggests

New research suggests switching more freight to rail on four of England’s most heavily congested freight routes has the potential to reduce air pollution and improve road safety.

The research, by consultants MTRU for Campaign for Better Transport, found that removing just 2,000 lorries a day from four routes - the A14 between Felixstowe and the Midlands, the A34 from Southampton to the Midlands, and the M6 and M62 motorways, which together carry around 37,500 HGVs every day - would result in a 10 per cent reduction in NOx and a seven per cent reduction in particulates from all road traffic, with a 2.5 per cent reduction in carbon emission across all four routes. In addition, 18 fewer people would be killed or seriously injured in crashes involving an HGV on these routes every year.

The research examined the pollution and safety benefits of upgrading existing rail lines and builds on previous research by MTRU which showed the congestion benefits of removing HGVs from the same routes.

Philippa Edmunds, Freight on Rail Manager, said: “This research shows that by upgrading the existing rail lines which run parallel to these motorway routes would allow large numbers of lorry loads to be transferred to rail, easing congestion, improving air quality and reducing road collisions.

“In particular the effect on reducing particulates is very important because, whilst the latest Euro VI engine technology reduces exhaust particulates, non-exhaust particulates pollution from HGV tyres and brakes remain a serious problem for which there is no current solution, especially for trucks which have large tyres.

“The Government should use the findings of this research to feed into its future road and rail investment strategies and in particular to support continued investment in the Strategic Rail Freight Network.”

Read the full research here.