UK: GB Railfreight has called for the appointment of a ‘Freight Evangelist’ who would act as dedicated ‘guiding mind’ to help steer the rail freight sector through recovery from the coronavirus crisis as well as the wider rail industry reforms which are to be announced this week.

The government’s white paper setting out its plans for the industry based on the Williams Rail Review is now expected to be published on May 20.

Ahead of the white paper, GB Railfreight has released a Freight Manifesto outlining measures which it believes would ensure the sector can continue to grow and support the economy, while also putting the industry as a whole on a path towards sustainability.

The five-point plan calls for the Freight Evangelist to:

  • Champion the economic value of freight, so that it is put on an equal footing with passenger services;
  • Put decarbonisation at the heart of their plan for the sector, in order to champion the ongoing modal shift from road to rail;
  • Enforce a ‘reliable and fair’ access regime;
  • Deliver investment that is freight specific, notably on electrification and improvements to critical infrastructure that unlocks freight capacity;
  • Take an integrated national perspective, but also devolve powers over operations to the regions to ensure the smooth running of services across the country.

‘We are at a critical point in the rail sector’s future’, said GB Railfreight Managing Director John Smith on May 18. ‘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.’