A show to demonstrate the opportunities of switching freight from road to rail is being laid on for local authorities.

The event is being organised in Ely, Cambridgeshire, on Thursday 21 October 2004 by Freight on Rail and the East of England Regional Assembly.

The need for rail has seldom been stronger with severe unreliability because of congestion on the road network, huge HGV driver shortages and impending higher costs with the introduction of the working time directive next April.

Councillor John Reynolds, chair of the Regional Planning Panel, and a Cambridgeshire county councillor is chairing the event.

He said: “Regional policy promotes the carriage of freight by rail and water. We want to explore ways in which this can be done most effectively. 

"Recognising rail's role in the region's expanding economy, the East of England Regional Assembly is seeking to set the framework for the movement of goods by rail through its Regional Spatial Strategy. The Government needs to enhance the rail network to enable the rapid movement of east west rail freight shipments."

Delegates attending the seminar will examine the opportunities to realise the potential for freight on rail.

They will also visit the Ely rail freight terminal run by the Potter Group, which is a leading independent UK road and rail logistics service provider with 160,000 sq metres of warehousing in five regional distribution centres.

As one of the UK’s largest independent rail terminal operators the group has invested heavily in rail freight and inter-modal container services in its Selby and Knowsley centres.

The group is currently investing several million pounds to provide full rail freight and container management facilities in its Ely centre, an environmentally responsible brown-field development.

Chairman Derrick Potter added: “Switching more goods to rail is one of the most effective ways for local authorities to help tackle road congestion; it provides a more environmentally responsible way to move goods and has proved a sound commercial decision for businesses in all parts of the economy.”

Freight on Rail campaign co-ordinator Philippa Edmunds said: "The East of England will be the fastest growing region in the next twenty years and we want to play our part in providing the right infrastructure to champion sustainable economic growth while limiting the environmental and social impacts. 

"We are committed to helping local and regional authorities promote rail freight and are very conscious of the obstacles they face. These events, where the industry can make constructive comments as well as listening to the issues authorities face, are designed to help this process”.

Freight on Rail is a partnership between transport trades unions, ASLEF, RMT and TSSA, the rail freight operators EWS, Freightliner, GB Railfreight, Network Rail, the Rail Freight Group and Transport 2000.

It works to promote the economic, social and environmental benefits of rail freight both nationally and locally. It advocates policy changes that support the shift to rail and provides information and help on freight related issues.

In particular, it aims to help local and regional authorities through all stages of the process such as planning a rail-freight strategy, accessing grants and dealing with technical matters.

For further information: Philippa Edmunds (Freight on Rail) Tel: 0208 241 9982  email: philippa at freightonrail.org.uk website: www.freightonrail.org.uk