Rail freight

Proud to power Freight Britain

With partners across the sector, we’re working harder than ever to deliver better, faster, stronger services to support Britain’s economy and the decarbonisation of transport and supply chains.

Accelerate the shift to rail

Rail freight contributes £2.45bn to the UK economy each year1

Rail freight powered through the pandemic, keeping supermarkets stocked, builders building and medicine moving. Now, rail freight is growing and evolving, fast. Businesses are making the switch from road (and air) to rail to keep their supply chains moving forward, sustainably and efficiently.

For many, the occasional glimpse of a freight train at a railway crossing is the only time they see rail freight. Yet it impacts on our lives in more ways than we realise. So, we’d like to tell you the full story behind Britain’s rail freight and our role within it.

A freight train having shipping containers removed from it

Animation: Why Britain relies on rail freight

Did you know?

A single freight train can replace up to a mile of lorries on a stretch of motorway.

A greener future with rail freight

To hit national decarbonisation targets and achieve net-zero, we must all invest in rail freight. That’s why the government is backing the shift of freight from road to rail – even offering funding for businesses to make the switch through Mode Shift grants2.

It’s been well publicised that each freight train removes 76 lorries from our roads, which could result in around 1 billion fewer Heavy Good Vehicles (HGV) miles every year3.

But it’s not a case of road vs rail

The greenest supply chains use the best transport option for each stage. On land, rail is the most sustainable option for doing more of the long distance, heavy lifting, while lorries and vans – ideally, electric vehicles – are best placed to cover the last mile (or even the last 10 or 20 miles).

Recommended pages

Freight performance

Rail freight operates around the clock. Its circular flows pass through large areas of Britain, carrying essential imports and exports and supplying our most important industries.

  1. Deloitte (2021) “Assessing the Value of Rail Freight”, a report for the Rail Delivery Group.
  2. Department for transport delivers more grant funding to transport freight by rail
  3. Rail Freight Group: Why use rail freight?