The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) has warned government that the UK will struggle to achieve its legal obligations of Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, if the country’s rail system does not have sufficient track capacity to allow the transfer of road freight onto rail as well as an increased number of passenger journeys.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, Kevin Richardson, Chief Executive and Sue Terpilowski, Chair, Public Policy Committee, CILT, have encouraged the government to move forward with plans for HS2, suggesting that it “is likely to be the more effective way of adding the required additional capacity to our transport system.”
For many years, CILT has offered advice and guidance to government on the fundamental need to increase rail capacity in the UK, and this letter suggests that, without HS2, “we cannot see a way of creating sufficient capacity for freight and passengers on the West Coast Main Line and, with Phase 2b, the Midland and East Coast Main Lines too.”
The Institute also predicts that if HS2 were not to proceed, the equivalent capacity would require at least one, probably two, new six-lane north-south trunk motorways.
Away from HS2, CILT believes that there are undoubtedly other parts of the UK transport network that need improvement, particularly in the North. Considerable synergy between such enhancements and the creation of additional north-south capacity are needed if the UK is to improve its economic and environmental performance.
Dear Prime Minister,
As a professional institute, The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport has no commercial interest in HS2 and seeks only to identify the best solutions for the British economy and environment. We respect the views of those who are pro- and anti-HS2, but believe we have a professional responsibility to set out the facts as we see them, clearly and unambiguously.
Daily congestion on our roads and railways demonstrates that the UK's transport system is inadequate for current needs, let alone those of the future in a growing economy: inescapably, more capacity is required. Some incremental capacity can be provided on certain routes but it is our considered professional judgement that this can do little more than cater for growth until a major injection of new capacity can be commissioned. It is also the case that upgrading existing road or rail routes is, unavoidably, highly disruptive and causes even more congestion and delays whilst it is implemented.
An injection of new capacity can take a number of forms but, if HS2 were not to proceed, we estimate the equivalent capacity would require at least one, probably two, new six-lane north-south trunk motorway(s) and a major programme of urban road construction to distribute traffic as it comes off the motorways. This option would involve much greater land take and the additional traffic would inevitably generate considerable extra carbon and other greenhouse gases. For these reasons we conclude that HS2 is likely to be the more effective way of adding the required additional capacity to our transport system.
There are also important productivity considerations. Logisticians face a daily challenge in keeping vital UK supply chains operating, from ports to manufacturing plants and distribution centres, and thence to stores and consumers. As well as congestion, they face a shortage of 60,000 HGV drivers and many of our largest companies are looking to switch goods to rail for the trunk haul. This preserves scarce HGV drivers for final deliveries that cannot be made by rail and one freight train typically saves around 50 HGV drivers. Without adequate capacity on the rail network, modal switch cannot occur and UK supply chain productivity is likely to deteriorate at a time when improving our international competitiveness requires productivity improvement.
Without HS2, we cannot see a way of creating sufficient capacity for freight (and passengers) on the West Coast Main Line and, with Phase 2b, the Midland and East Coast Main Lines too. These are key arteries for goods moving to and from the main ports and for transporting essential construction materials from the Midlands and North to London and the South East. We also note that, even with diesel locomotives, around 75% less carbon is emitted when goods move by rail instead of road and that those rail emissions fall close to zero with electric locomotives powered from renewable sources. Accordingly, modal switch is highly beneficial in helping to achieve our legal obligations of Net Zero carbon by 2050, but cannot occur if the rail system does not have the track capacity to allow this to happen.
There are undoubtedly other parts of the UK transport network that need improvement, particularly in the North, and we see considerable synergy between such enhancements and the creation of additional north-south capacity. Both are needed if we are to improve our economic and environmental performance: it is not a case of either/or. We are happy to make available our professional expertise if this would assist in evaluating investment options.
Key long term strategic transport decisions need to be taken in the coming weeks and we trust that the points made in this letter will be helpful in reaching a conclusion.
Kevin Richardson Sue Terpilowski
Chief Executive Chair, Public Policy Committee