Labour's 2008 transport policy had a range of goals which pretty much sums up the banal attitude to this:
- Increasing the movement of freight by ship and rail to 30 per cent and 25 per cent respectively. Whatever THAT means, because it could just be an increase in freight tonne km, which could happen anyway with a booming economy. However if it is about mode share, then there is no chance this could happen without taxing others to subsidise freight movements by more expensive modes. The assumption is that moving freight by sea and rail is better, because of less pollution, but it ignores that the reason it doesn't happen as much as planners want, is cost. It simply costs more. There is no quantification of the benefits of this mode shift, given it will cost money to achieve it, it is simply part of the quasi-religious belief that sea and rail transport is "better" than road transport, not anything based on evidence.
The truth is that the government cannot predict transport demand, technologies or geographical changes in demographics and businesses. The government's biggest influence is owning infrastructure it could see free through commercialisation and privatisation, but no, it wants to specify the "right level" of funding when it doesn't know where demand is heading.