Research shows benefits of increasing rail freight in London


Cross River Partnership (CRP) has launched its latest research into the economic, environmental and community benefits of a new freight hub at Waterloo Station.

Commissioned in collaboration with Network Rail and the Great British Railways Transition Team (GBRTT), the research from transport consultants Steer and Intermodality show the many positive impacts of increasing rail freight coming into Waterloo Station, supported by zero emission onward road journeys.

The Waterloo Freight Hub is planned to support London’s economy and environment by bringing more freight into central London via rail rather than via road. Existing undercroft space at Waterloo Station would be used to receive, sort and re-issue the rail freight outwards across much of London, servicing some 3.5 million people and 200,000 businesses. These onward journeys would all be undertaken by clean transport modes, including electric cargo bikes. The journeys could save up to 2,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide per annum from London’s air from hundreds of cargo bike and other zero emission delivery trips, as well as make significant improvements to the noise levels associated with traditional vehicle types.

Cross River Partnership (CRP) is working with Network Rail, GBRTT and other partners to start using some of the Waterloo Station undercroft space for freight as soon as possible, early in 2024. Initially the Waterloo Freight Hub will be aiming to handle clean road freight only, with a view to adding in larger volume rail freight later on, once all operational arrangements have been finalised. Rail freight could come into the Waterloo Freight Hub from origins including Southampton and the Midlands. The Courier, Express and Parcel (CEP) market is growing significantly, particularly driven by a demand for faster, convenient and more efficient deliveries, and a higher percentages of retail sales now made online due to a booming ecommerce industry. Currently, just 1% of the rail freight transported on the UK’s rail network is from Courier, Express and Parcel market.

Multiple rail and road-fed freight deliveries into the Waterloo Freight Hub could be a way for supporting the CEP industry during a phase of high growth, and this could have huge positive impacts. From estimates of 20,000 parcels being delivered per day at this vast space, CRP, Steer and Intermodality’s modelling estimates show that impacts of one dedicated freight train and onward journey by cargo bikes could be as great as 165 new, local, “green jobs” created; nearly 2,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide saved from London’s air per annum;  £44 million in turnover for local businesses per annum; and £1.4 million in environmental, social and economic benefits from using rail freight per annum.

The Waterloo Freight Hub will involve a large number of partners, including Network Rail, GBRTT, the London Borough of Lambeth, local communities, local Business Improvement Districts, regional government agencies, expert transport consultants, freight operating companies, couriers. All of these will be co-ordinated by Cross River Partnership. The initiative is being spear-headed through CRP’s Defra-funded Smarter Greener Logistics programme, and Network Rail’s Chair, Peter, Lord Hendy of Richmond Hill, is supportive of this project.
With the ecommerce market booming, there could be up to 1 billion parcels delivered each year by 2030 in London, over double what is currently being delivered now. This Waterloo Freight Hub prioritises much-needed space for logistics, and will be an important strategic lever for green growth around Waterloo, Lambeth and across London.

Peter, Lord Hendy of Richmond Hill, Chair of Network Rail, said: “Network Rail and the Great British Railways Transition Team are supportive of this initiative and are keen to see initial road-fed and rail-fed trials happen at the Waterloo Station Freight Hub. These trials will ensure that Network Rail and the Great British Railways Transition Team are taking an evidence-based approach to delivering environmental sustainability projects and ensuring that we share best-practice from this innovative project across London.”

Ross Phillips, Sustainable Transport Manager at Cross River Partnership, said: “Cross River Partnership is extremely pleased to be working with so many partners to bring the Waterloo Freight Hub to life. Its potential to transform the way that freight comes into, and is delivered across, London is unparalleled. We can look forward to less congested streets, smaller / quieter and non-polluting vehicles, as well as deliveries via rail at a fraction of the cost of road transport.”