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Road Freight

Volume 451: debated on Wednesday 1 November 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what further plans the Government have to encourage the transfer of road freight to (a) rail and (b) waterways. (97852)

We have three schemes that will directly support the transfer of freight traffic from road to rail and water. These schemes are the Freight Facilities Grant (FFG), Rail Environmental Benefit Procurement Scheme (REPS) and Waterborne Freight Grant (WFG). From April 2007 these schemes will be managed through the Sustainable Distribution Fund. The Secretary of State made a statement to Parliament announcing an increased budget for the Sustainable Distribution Fund on the 15 June 2006.

Since that statement the Department has received state aids approval for the REPS program from the European Commission. Officials are now proceeding towards implementing the new scheme to ensure as smooth a transition as possible from the current arrangements.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what measures the Government have introduced since 1997 to encourage the transfer of freight from road to (a) rail and (b) waterways. (97854)

Since 1997, direct support to promote mode shift from road to rail has been provided in the form of freight facilities grants, track access grants and company neutral revenue support. In addition, the Government have provided continued support to the rail freight industry through their policies towards the railways, specifically through the Railways Act 2005. These policies have contributed to considerable growth in rail freight moved in the period, up 46 per cent. between 1996-97 and 2005-06.

In the same period, the Government have also awarded grants of £54 million for water freight schemes. These will have saved over 1 billion road miles worth of lorry journeys on our roads. Last year we introduced a new waterborne freight grant scheme to assist both inland waterways and shipping companies with their operating costs. Since 2002, we have also implemented the recommendations of the Freight Study Group, which the Government established to consider how more freight could be carried on inland waterways. This included the setting up and funding of Sea and Water, an organisation specifically set up to represent the industry and promote water freight. We have also funded the costs of a Sea and Water database to provide all the necessary information potential water freight customers.