Making the right decisions about freight

Building the right kind of railway is crucial to the long-term success of East West Rail (EWR) and unlocking the benefits for communities along the route. Having listened to your feedback and reviewed thousands of pages of detailed analysis, we’re now ready to make key decisions about the type of railway EWR will be.

One of these decisions is about how the line will carry freight alongside passenger services. This includes how much freight is transported, how often and at what times of the day.


Weighing up the benefits

Freight takes lorries off local roads, keeps supplies moving efficiently and brings social and economic value to the UK of £2.5bn per year.

But there are other considerations we must factor in too.

For example, freight trains are slower and longer which, without the right freight routes, could affect the smooth running of passenger services.

As with all our decision making, we’re weighing up the facts so that we can be confident we’re delivering the right solution.

Below are three particular areas we're considering. 

1. About our environment and communities

Benefits and opportunities

Carbon emissions from rail are 76% lower than those from road, and rail reduces the social cost of greenhouse gas emissions by 86%, and improves air quality costs by 16%.

Using rail freight frees up local roads, making them safer for cyclists, public transport and other road users, and helping to make journeys quicker.

Fewer lorries on the roads will make pavements more accessible, with less noise and vibration from heavy goods vehicles




What are some considerations?

We recognise that freight trains can be noisy, however they are generally less frequent than road freight, which can also carry noise. 

Our current aspiration is for freight trains to run mainly during an 18-hour operational window. Which would mean no freight trains in operation between 00.00 and 06.00. This would reduce any potential disturbance in the early hours of the morning.

As with diesel road vehicles, diesel trains emit nitrogen oxides. However, modern freight services operate with clean and efficient engines and rolling stock. There are legal controls on emission levels and railways like EWR are designed to reduce negative impacts from all train services – including freight.

2. About opportunity and enterprise

Benefits and opportunities

Rail freight keeps goods moving efficiently, especially as we experience the effects from a shortage of delivery drivers on our roads, 

Rail freight is becoming even more important for the UK economy, delivering £2.45 billion in economic and social benefits to the UK every year.

EWR will support UK rail freight transport, helping ease rail congestion hotspots in places like Birmingham and accelerating connections to areas such as Yorkshire.

Operating a suitable freight service on our network will generate jobs and economic benefits for communities along the line, in particular where there are freight depots / terminals.



Customer experience could be impacted by potential delays or disruption to passenger services resulting from an increase in freight services on the line. However, this can be avoided through careful planning and close collaboration between passenger and freight operators.

We’re working out the number of available ‘freight paths’ which is the amount of space in the timetable for freight trains to run alongside passenger services.

Additional railway infrastructure work may be needed to increase the capacity of the line, both on and off the EWR network.

3. About time and cost

Benefits and opportunities

Our baseline infrastructure is designed and costed to accommodate limited freight services.

The maximum gradient of the route would be no steeper than 1 in 80, which would mean most freight trains could safely us the railway without delaying passenger trains

We have also looked at options for new passing loops, which would help passenger trains overtake freight trains if required. Some of these passing loops were included in the designs published at our 2021 public consultation

Freight does not always have to be ‘heavy freight’, and as rail freight continues to grow in the UK there could be opportunities for ‘light freight’, such as parcels and packages (similar to postal services) in the future, which could use passenger-like trains.



Freight and passenger services affect the network differently, which means that different maintenance would be needed to accommodate freight. This is something we are currently looking at.

An increase in future demand for rail freight might mean that extra freight capacity would be needed on the EWR route. Whilst this would bring greater economic benefits to both the local community and to the UK as a whole, further investment will be needed on the EWR and national network for these benefits to be realised.

There is a balance between running freight and a regular passenger timetable. We’re looking at how best to benefit both types of services.

Find out more

More information on the freight strategy for EWR, and our approach to avoiding or reducing potential impacts from freight trains, will be provided at our next statutory consultation. This will include information about noise, vibration and air quality assessments. 

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Delivery of East West Rail is underway