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It has been the aim of successive governments to shift freight from more polluting modes such as road and air to more sustainable ones such as rail, inland waterways and short sea shipping. The rail freight industry is largely in the hands of the private sector, however it has to operate on a rail network owned and operated by Network Rail. The way in which its access to that network and the extent and quality of it are a matter for NR, the regulator and the Government.

There has been a renewed interest in rail freight in recent years as the Government has sought to drive economic growth in the regions with better logistics and more robust and sustainable supply chains as part of its Northern Powerhouse agenda and industrial strategy. The Government published a rail strategy paper in September 2016 setting out how it intends to help the industry move forwards; this followed a detailed network study published by Network Rail earlier in 2016.

Information on other rail-related matters can be found on the Railways Topical Page of the Parliament website.

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