The grants have been suspended because of the SRA's cash crisis and put at risk plans to cut deaths on the roads in the 2003-2004 period.

The suspension is likely to result in a failure to transfer 12 million lorry journeys to rail.

Freight on Rail, a partnership between rail freight operators, rail trade unions and Transport 2000, is calling for the full reinstatement of funding by the SRA for freight facilities grants and track access grants.

The Strategic Rail Authority has announced that new applications for grants in England are to be halted from now until the end of the next financial year (2003/04).

The SRA has been forced by the Treasury to reduce its expenditure by £300million.

Transport Secretary Alistair Darling is being urged to instruct the SRA to fund FFGs and TAGs for the financial year 2003/04.

Both the Confederation of British Industry and the Freight Transport Association have voiced their anger at the move and have called for the SRA to reverse their decision, a move which reflects the important of the grants to business and the wider freight industry.

Philippa Edmunds, Freight on Rail campaign co-ordinator, said: Freight on Rail fully appreciates the budgetary constraints that the SRA faces at this time, however the FFG and TAG programmes deserve the highest priority.

These schemes have saved many lives on the road network. Alistair Darling must ensure that lives are continued to be saved by restoring the funding. Any halt will see some grant dependent new rail freight schemes by users frozen for nearly 15 months or scrapped altogether and the unnecessary and tragic loss of life on the road network.

Up to now the government policies of FFGs and TAGs have fully met their objectives to help reduce road congestion, reduce noxious emissions and reduce deaths and accidents on the road network.

Freight on Rail is a partnership between ASLEF, RMT, TSSA, EWS, Freightliner, GB Railfreight, the Rail Freight Group and Transport 2000.

The impact of FFG and TAG awards together made in 2000/1 and 2001/2 is considerable. To move the same volumes of freight by road each year would require a fleet of 3,000 heavy lorries, equivalent to over 3% of the total UK HGV fleet.

For the financial year 2002/03 nearly 17 million lorry journeys will be removed from the road network as a result of the FFG and TAG schemes.

For the same period, one million tonnes of toxic emissions will be removed from the atmosphere.

For 2003/04, over 12 million lorry journeys are expected to be removed from the road network through FFGs and TAGs. This level of reduction can no longer be achieved resulting to increasing road congestion and accidents on the road network.

Information from Philippa Edmunds, Freight on Rail Campaign co-ordinator. 0208 241 9982 or
philippa at