Freight News, Logistics, Road, Sea

Planners suffer freight ‘freight blindness’ says infrastructure report

[ December 21, 2018   //   ]

Government and local authorities are suffering from ‘freight blindness’ with little understanding of why and how to plan for the sector and leaving its needs of far down the priority list, says the National Infrastructure Commission’s interim report into the Future of Freight, published on 21 December.
Planners are unable to take account of, or plan effectively for, the needs of freight and government’s current approaches to policy making are piecemeal, fragmented into individual modes and have struggled to proactively confront future challenges.
There is no national view as to how the UK freight system is performing as a whole. It has limited visibility within government and limited priority is given to it as a policy issue, the report adds.
The report also calls for new technology such as intelligent Automatic Number Plate Recognition and mobile tracking to provide the information needed to develop effective freight policies. Lack of data makes it difficult to develop plans and interventions that meet the needs of freight whilst managing harmful by products such as emissions.
The report adds that there is an increasingly limited supply of land for storage and distribution operations in key markets, particularly London, where the present vacancy rate is just 4%.
In response, the British Ports Association called on Government to review its freight strategy and prioritise port connectivity initiatives. Chief executive, Richard Ballantyne suggested: “We welcome the National Infrastructure Commission’s progress. The interim report provides an important reminder to Government about the importance of freight transport. It also highlights some of the challenges the nation faces in terms of our ageing transport infrastructure. The UK’s transport network is vital for ports and everyone in the freight and logistics sector.”
While UK ports are independent of Government and responsible for their own infrastructure. They are however reliant on good connections, particularly publicly managed roads, which can be subject political and funding considerations.
Ballantyne continued: “While we support a long-term approach we are keen that the NIC’s work leads to clearer funding commitments and soon. In recent years Government has focused investment towards ‘big ticket’ passenger schemes and it is important that freight is not neglected to help the UK remain competitive.
BPA would also like to see some visionary economic growth policies which could see ports become hubs of regional economic activity stimulating trade and jobs. It is promoting a concept of defining certain coastal areas as ‘Port Development and Enterprise Zones’ which could have preferential planning and business rules to support regional growth.
Chief Executive of the UK Major Ports Group, Tim Morris, added: “Freight is vital to UK industry and all our daily lives, with most main freight routes anchored on our major ports. Yet it is often a victim of its own success – overshadowed by other sectors and issues which run less smoothly. The UK Major Ports Group particularly welcomes the NIC’s focus on the need for greater recognition of freight in strategic spatial planning. UKMPG has been calling for better recognition of the UK’s Strategic Freight Network and will release research in January on the big prize to the UK from more planning and operational focus on this network.”

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