Birds eye view of railway network

Health effects of air pollution

Assessing rail’s potential to cut air pollution from freight

We’re assessing the London rail network’s potential to help to cut air pollution from freight. We believe transporting more goods by train would reduce the number of polluting vans on London’s roads, improving air quality and people’s health.

Key partnership information

What are we doing together? 

We’re working with Cross River Partnership to find out if it’s possible for trains to deliver more freight into London. A bigger role for rail would mean fewer lorries and vans on the city’s roads, cleaner air and therefore better public health.   

Cross River Partnership will assess the capability of stations in Lambeth and Southwark to receive freight from the wider rail network and then transfer it to clean modes of road transport, like electric vehicles and cargo bikes.   

The research will explore: 

  • Eliminating the risk of any potential disruption to passenger journeys  
  • Space available for freight at stations  
  • Whether timetabling allows enough time for freight to be loaded and unloaded from trains 
  • Street access at stations, so freight can be loaded onto electric vehicles or cargo bikes 
  • A realistic timeframe for shifting more freight onto the rail network.      

Cross River Partnership has extensive experience of developing and implementing air quality improvement programmes in central London. For this study, they will work with Steer Transport Consultancy and Great British Railways. 

This research will help to identify which of Lambeth and Southwark’s stations could handle freight trains, as well as those where there are significant logistical barriers.  

Aim of the partnership

The movement and delivery of freight contributes significantly toward air pollution in cities, which has serious consequences for people’s health. That’s why we’re funding this work to scope the potential of rail as a cleaner, less polluting alternative for moving freight around London.  

Improving our knowledge on the feasibility of moving parcels and goods from road-based transport to trains in London could help to reduce congestion and dangerous air pollution, here in London and in other cities.  

The research findings will be published in a report. In collaboration with Network Rail, Transport for London and local authorities, the insights gathered during this project will be valuable in the redevelopment of rail stations across the city to better incorporate freight.    

Connection to our strategy

A priority for our programme is to focus on the main sources of air pollution in our place and work with businesses to find equitable solutions to reducing these emissions. 

Freight contributes toward over 30% of nitrogen oxide and over 25% of fine particulate matter in London, despite only representing 15% of vehicle miles. Experts predict this contribution will increase over the coming years. Currently 79% of freight in the UK is moved by road and research recently found that there are major hidden environmental and social costs to van deliveries in cities like London. 

That’s why we are working with our partners to look at different options to reduce the number of polluting vehicle miles travelled by delivery vans. We are exploring the potential of a modal shift of freight from road to rail in south London as it could significantly reduce carbon emissions and road congestion, improving air quality and health outcomes across the city. 

Amandeep Singh Kellay

Want to find out more about this project?

Contact Portfolio Manager Amandeep Singh Kellay.

Contact Amandeep