The Great British Railways Transition Team (GBRTT), which is a public body, is calling for a broad range of views on how to expand rail freight.

It is estimated rail freight currently accounts for just 10 per cent of surface freight although it generates about 76 per cent less carbon emissions compared to HGVs per tonne of goods transported.

GBRTT has called for a freight growth target to boost investment in the sector by setting a clear government ambition for growth. It said such a target would help the UK meet its legally binding greenhouse gas reduction targets.

If rail freight volumes treble by 2050, as modelling indicates could be required to meet the net-zero targets, then there would be about 14 million fewer road lorry movements a year than today.

Rail minister Wendy Morton said: “With freight playing a significant role in removing emissions from our transport network, this new growth target will be vital for creating a greener freight network...