Freight News, Sea

Prescott stresses the importance of lateral thinking in freight

[ September 14, 2016   //   ]

Former transport minister Lord Prescott called for the transpennine corridor from Liverpool to the east coast to be developed as an alternative to sending most freight down to Dover.
At a House of Commons event on 13 September to mark the setting up of an association by four of the North’s largest ports, he called for more emphasis on east-west transport projects rather than grandious north-south schemes such as the High Speed 2 rail link. He added that transport projects could also be a catalyst in making the Northern Powerhouse project a concrete reallity rather than just a talking shop.
At the moment, freight entering the UK from Ireland or further afield via the port of Liverpool tends to make a beeline for southern ports like Dover rather than making the much shorter journey across the Pennines. This would, he said, be a much lower carbon route to Europe rather than Dover.”
Later, in conversation with FBJ, Prescott decried the spending of hundreds of millions of pounds on an emergency overflow lorry park for Dover, although he suggested that the plan was not a done deal and would not necessarily see the light of day.
Lord Prescott also paid tribute to Peel Ports in making its Liverpool2 container port scheme in Liverpool. By contrast, port development in Hull – where he was constituency MP until 2010 – had been handicapped by inter-regiuonal rivalry. “I admire Liverpool for getting the Superport pushed through. Now we’re trying to do the same on the Humber.”
Speaking at the same event, current transport minister John Hayes said that Network Rail and other bodies were actively evaluating a larger-gauge freight route across the Penninese and measures to create an hourly freight train path. The gathering was told that the large-gauge route could be created for a relatively modest £100m or so.
Meanwhile the ports of Liverpool, Hull (ABP), Tees and Tyne agreed on a new Northern Ports Association to create jobs and boost exports and prosperity across the whole of the North of England. The association’s creation was one of the recommendations of the IPPR North’s Northern Ports report, which highlighted the domination of southern ports and the problems this creates in transporting imports and exports across the UK. For instance, at present, 60% of freight destined for the North is delivered to southern ports – leading to unnecessary traffic, delays, pollution and inefficiency.
Speaking at the event, director of IPPR North, Ed Cox, said: “For just £100 million, the government could open-up east-west port connections and create a gateway to a global North. This is exactly the kind of ‘shovel-ready’ project the government is looking to be eyeing-up ahead of the Autumn Statement.”
Peel Ports chief operating officer, Gary Hodgson added that the agreement would mean “collaboration in an industry that isn’t noted for collaboration”. It was important for northern ports “to have one voice and influence how central government thinks.”
Logistics models were changing with the development of port-centric warehousing and the east-west corridor was an important component of that. Not least, it would mean that the UK was no longer vulnerable to “a single point of failure” on the Channel.
PD Ports’ Business Development Director, Geoff Lippitt, said: “The launch of the Northern Ports Association is incredibly positive, it will unite us in developing a stronger, more progressive and prosperous northern economy linked to international trade.
“The commitment of the major northern ports to collaborate and seek out ways to work together delivering solutions to challenges facing the industry such as trans-Pennine connectivity and the skills agenda will benefit us all.
“We are in changing and uncertain economic times therefore it’s important that the North and Northern ports are seen as a progressive body to drive through that change.”

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