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Robert.Jervis_43227 May 18

GBRf calls for the appointment of a ‘Freight Evangelist’

“We are at a critical point in the rail sector’s future”
GB Railfreight has called for the appointment of a new dedicated rail freight ‘guiding mind’ to steer the sector through the next phase in order to assure future growth, particularly following the COVID-19 crisis.
The new position, which will oversee all rail freight operations, is expected to be unveiled with the publication of the long-awaited Rail White Paper this week, in what looks set to be the biggest shake-up of the UK’s railways since privatisation in the 1990s.
GB Railfreight is calling for the new ‘Freight Evangelist’ to sign up to its Freight Manifesto, a five-point plan outlining of proposed measures which will ensure the sector can continue to grow and support the UK economy, while also putting the industry as a whole on a path towards sustainability.
The five-point plan is calling for the new Evangelist to:
1.       Champion the economic value of freight, so that it is put on an equal footing with passenger services;
2.       Put decarbonisation at the heart of their plan for the sector, in order to champion the ongoing modal shift from road to rail;
3.       Enforce an access regime that is reliable and fair to allow operators to deliver for their customers;
4.       Deliver investment that is freight specific, notably on electrification and improvements to critical infrastructure that unlocks freight capacity;
5.       Take an integrated national perspective, but also devolve powers over operations to the regions to ensure the smooth running of services across the country.
John Smith, Managing Director at GB Railfreight, said:
“We are at a critical point in the rail sector’s future. The decisions in the White Paper this week will have long-lasting consequences on all aspects, including rail freight. For this reason, GBRf is calling for the appointment of a dedicated ‘Freight Evangelist’ that can guide the sector into the next phase of our development.

“What rail freight needs now is parity of esteem with passenger services, and we need a voice round the table that can make the case for us. We have kept going during the pandemic, showing that we are an integral part of the UK economy. Rail freight also has an important role to play in reaching net zero emissions – it is right our voices are heard, both within Network Rail and across Whitehall.
“Today’s Freight Manifesto is a list of demands of the new guiding mind which will ensure rail freight can play its full part in shaping the future of the UK’s railways and put the economy on track to reach net zero by 2050.”

Separately - John also commented on the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail White Paper

“We welcome the publication of the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail and appreciate the warm words used to describe rail freight – correctly identified as having played a crucial role in keeping food and medical supplies moving during the pandemic as well as being key to building back better.
“As the Williams Review found, the rail sector lacks clear strategic direction. While we would have preferred a freight specific guiding mind, we welcome the government’s intent that the new Great British Railway body will have a statutory duty to promote rail freight. Within this context it is vital that our access to the network is given long term security as soon as possible.
“However we remain of the belief that our sector needs a Freight Evangelist to champion it within GBR and across Whitehall. The benefits of rail freight are there for all to see, and we hope they will be recognised by GBR once it has been set up. Hopefully such an individual will be placed in post within the GBR organisation.
“We look forward to playing our part in shaping in the future of the railways including working with GBR and the Department for Transport on the Whole Industry 30-year Strategic Plan that will be set out in the coming months as announced in the White Paper.”