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Infrastructure body calls for zero-tolerance to freight emissions

[ April 18, 2019   //   ]

Emissions from freight traffic on road and rail should be reduced to zero by 2050 and there should be a complete ban on the sale of diesel-powered heavy trucks by 2040, said the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) in a report published on 17 April.

Sir John Armitt, the Commission chairman said development of hydrogen and battery HGVs is already well advanced and vehicles are expected to be commercially available in the early 2020s.

The ban on new sales of diesel HGVs should also be part of wider efforts to support the entire road and rail freight industry to become carbon-free by 2050.

The government must also set a clear framework for freight at all levels of the UK’s planning system to ensure the needs of the sector are considered in land use, local plans and new developments.

While the UK freight industry is already one of the most efficient and competitive in the world, the growth of same day delivery services, just-in-time manufacturing processes and internet shopping is increasing demand on the sector.

Over the next 30 years heavy freight transport in the UK is expected to increase by at least 27% per cent – and could rise by as much as 45%.

Freight on road and rail produces around 6% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions today. But if no action is taken the sector could be responsible for around a fifth of all emissions by 2050.

The report recommends that Ministers should set out within the next two years how they plan to ban all sales of new petrol and diesel HGVs by 2040 and begin preparing the nation’s infrastructure for this transition.

Worsening congestion is harming the economy means that the needs of freight and its value to the economy are also fully recognised at a much earlier stage in the UK’s planning system, especially in and around cities.

Sir John Armitt said: “We all rely heavily on our freight industry. As one of the most efficient in the world, it rarely fails to deliver. But we are paying the price for this miracle of modern service through the impact on our environment and air quality, and through congestion on our roads. Government must act to help businesses tackle these issues.”

NIC proposes that the government introduce new planning guidance for local authorities by 2020 so they can incorporate effective policies and schemes for freight as part of their Local Plans and Local Transport Plans – including the provision of land or floorspace for storage and distribution activities, and to maximise potential for freight trips to be made at off-peak times. City authorities should incorporate plans for freight as part of their long term infrastructure strategies, covering transport, employment opportunities and new homes.

It also calls for a new Freight Leadership Council, meeting bi-annually and bringing together representatives from all freight transport types and parts of the supply chain, as well as national and local government.

Transport for the North’s lead officer for freight and logistics, Lucy Hudson, responded: “Freight is a key aspect of our transport plans, and we are encouraged by the recommendations of the National Infrastructure Commission report. We’re already seeing the benefits of combining pan-Northern rail and road data with freight data to understand the whole network impact of the schemes in our investment programme.

“The efficient movement of goods and services is key to Northern industries, and that’s why we’re working on ensuring that our rail and road networks are fit for purpose and have the capacity to accommodate freight.

“We would support the introduction of a Freight Leadership Council, and would welcome the opportunity to be involved.”

The British Ports Association also welcomed the report but suggested more investment in network capabilities and port connectivity was key to efficient freight movement and business growth.
Chief executive, Richard Ballantyne, said: “Freight is a vital part of the economy but is often overlooked in terms of transport investment, where traditionally passenger schemes have received most attention. The Study rightly highlights the challenges the sector faces in respect of environmental requirements but alongside this we would like to see a review of transport funding and more support for local authorities to recognise port development and back up local freight transport challenges.”

He added: Support for the transport network should be backed up by clearer public funding commitments. UK road funding has been particularly neglected in the last two decades. Investments in last mile connections and bottlenecks around ports must be examined and solutions prioritised. There are certainly opportunities to consider these issues as part of new funding arrangements for both the Strategic Road Network and the revived Major Road Network.”

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