Evidencing the green benefits of rail freight

By Jonathan Bailey, Managing Director at BaileyRail & Logistics

The environmental and economic benefits that rail freight brings are well-recognised across the industry and it is important that this continues to be evidenced by in-depth analysis and research.

Logistics and supply chains account for the majority of carbon emissions for many businesses. In addition, supply chain costs can equate to around 10% of a company’s total costs. Creating efficiencies and focusing on greener modal shift opportunities can be the direct solution to these increasingly important challenges.

Promoting the real environmental and financial advantages of using rail freight is something that we continually strive to do at BaileyRail & Logistics. Let’s keep in mind that rail freight is a strong player in the supply chain in this area, with many green benefits.

Improved air quality is just one example. Rail produces up to 10 times less small particulate matter than road haulage and as much as 15 times less nitrogen oxide for the equivalent mass hauled.

It is always interesting and beneficial to see the latest stats on how choosing rail freight in supply chains can benefit not only the customer, but the wider economic and environmental landscapes too.

I’ve enjoyed reading the report published by Rail Partners this month (March 2023) which suggests that rail freight has the potential to boost the UK economy by £5.2bn annually by 2025 and take 20 million HGV journeys off our roads.

The full report – Freight expectations: How rail freight can support Britain’s economy and environment – makes for interesting reading, highlighting how, supported by the right policies, rail freight can flourish and deliver significant environmental and economic benefits.

The report includes independent analysis by Aether, the University of Hull’s Logistics Institute and Railfreight Consulting. Aether concluded that a typical freight service produces 76% less CO2 per tonne than by the equivalent movement by road. In addition, by operating longer, heavier freight services operators are significantly improving productivity and growing the freight market. Analysis showed that these services ease road congestion by removing up to 129 HGVs from the road network per train, alongside further enhancing rail freight’s carbon and air quality performance.

Studies such as this, which include independently verified analysis, are vital for the sector to continue to be able to promote the huge benefits rail freight brings to the UK economy and environment.

Meanwhile, the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB), has conducted a research project, funded by the Department of Transport, which shows that train operators in Great Britain can safely and securely haul more goods wagons per train than current practices afford. This is said to be set to revolutionise rail freight by allowing line capacity to be maximised which will reduce environmental impact and improve financial efficiency.

This research has enabled existing couplers, which connect freight wagons, to safely connect more load. The evidence means a 34.5 tonne coupler rating can increase 16% to 40 tonne, and some 56 tonne rated couplers can increase 13% to a new 63 tonne rating. The RSSB says the uprated values can be applied to wagons in use today without the need to upgrade or undertake a detailed engineering assessment.

As a result of the research, it is estimated that more than 12,000 rail freight wagons, more than 50% of Britain’s fleet, will receive an increase in traction rating.

The environmental impact of the research is significant. For example more than two tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions can be saved on a typical Anglo-Scottish journey, accompanied by the reduction of considerable amounts of nitrogen oxides and particulate emissions.

A case study included in the report highlighted:

  • A 235-mile journey (each way) with 19 wagons. This increased to 23 wagons and provided environmental savings of 2.1 tonnes CO The projected annual financial savings were £364k.

At BaileyRail & Logistics advising our clients on how to make their supply chains greener is important to us. We keep up to date with the latest evidence and innovations so that we can provide the best service in terms of harnessing environmental and economic benefits.

We offer our clients a unique and bespoke product covering all aspects of robust rail freight, logistics and supply chain management. To find out more visit www.baileyrail.com

Written by:
About us

From improved planning to greener alternatives, waste reduction to improved people performance and innovative ideas to market leading performance.

Creating a sustainable environment and looking after the people within it are at the heart of our values. To expand on our Rail and Logistic consultancy services, and to further cement our core values,  Bailey Rail are delighted to have entered commercial partnership agreements with Air Quality Monitoring experts One Sky and Renewable Energy experts Furlong Energy.