Why use rail freight?

Rail freight offers many commercial advantages to its customers, including reliability, speed and cost-effectiveness. It also benefits society as a whole by reducing harmful emissions and congestion, providing high quality jobs, and helping many regions of the UK to prosper.

Reliability and speed

Rail freight operators achieve 97% reliability on the premium services they run for retailers and, in general, rail freight can match or better road freight reliability. Freight trains continue to achieve higher speeds with heavier payloads as operators invest in better locomotives and wagons.


Rail freight companies continue to invest and reduce costs for customers. For instance, they have increased the payloads they can carry, with tonnage per train up by 80% in the last decade.

Environmental benefits

Rail freight reduces CO2 emissions by up to 76 per cent compared to road. This helps mitigate the effects of transport emissions on global warming.

Improved air quality

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. This benefits the nation’s – especially children’s – health.

Reduced congestion and better safety

Each freight train removes up to 76 lorries from the roads, resulting in 1.6 billion fewer HGV kilometres every year.

Rail passengers kept on track

Rail freight provides specialist services to the track renewal and maintenance teams, keeping costs and disruption to the rail network to a minimum.

Regional growth is supported

Of the 5,000+ people employed by the freight operating companies, more than 80 % are employed outside the south east of England. Rail freight also is vital for the economic prosperity of ports, power stations, production centres and retail centres throughout the country.