You report that the Rail Regulator proposes to increase the track access charges paid by rail freight companies because they currently meet only about a quarter of the annual bill for use of the railway network ("New cost will lead to more coal lorries", The Herald, February 18).
This could result in a major shift of heavy freight from rail to road. In making this decision has the Office of Rail Regulation (part of the Department for Transport) been able to compare the cost of rail freight with the actual proportion of road costs paid by the heavy goods vehicles?
Road engineers have long claimed the wear and tear on road surfaces due to heavy lorries is not met by the taxes paid by road haulage companies, which fails to include external costs, including environmental impacts. Decades of disingenuous obfuscation on this matter by the DfT and its predecessors have long concealed the full cost of road freight transport, and have had a strong part to play in the volume of road freight. These proposals should be delayed until a complete and independent study is done into the total costs of both rail and road freight transport, including all environmental influences.
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