Freight News, Logistics

Think logistics, BIFA boss tells Chancellor

[ July 7, 2015   //   ]

With the Chancellor due to unveil his emergency budget tomorrow, (Weds 8 July), British International Freight Association (BIFA) chief Robert Keen is calling for real investment in UK logistics.

While road traffic – passenger and freight – has surged over the past three decades, the capacity of the network has scarcely increased at all and the effects are being felt in increasing, and increasingly erratic, journey times in all parts of the country.

The freight industry is often overlooked by politicians, he continues, despite the fact that 2.2 million people in the UK – one in 12 of the workforce – are employed in the sector, according to the Government’s own figures.

The specific part of the supply chain for which BIFA’s members are responsible is even less appreciated, says Keen. “The government needs to pay more attention to the value of international freight and logistics to the UK and urgently address issues that impact on the global supply chain, including Customs, EU legislation, security and international trade treaties.

Ports and railways, too, need more strategic and joined up thinking. While major private investment has gone into the new London Gateway Port and the enlarged Liverpool2 container terminal, Keen points out, “what has too often been lacking is commitment by the government to deliver the improved road and rail inland links that these schemes require if we are to realise their full potential.”

The prolonged dithering over when and whether to extend runway capacity in South-East England is perhaps though the supreme example of government procrastination. “It is time to get down to some long-term, strategic airport planning before the UK finally and irrevocably runs out of airport capacity,” Robert Keen emphasises.

Even immigration impinges on the industry, Keen adds. Immigrants play a vital role in keeping UK logistics moving, as drivers, warehouse operatives and, increasingly, management. Any moves to restrict immigration from the rest of the EU or from further afield, “could potentially have a very serious impact on the logistics industry,” Robert Keen states.

Education policy will also have a big impact on the health of the UK logistics sector, he believes. The lack of public knowledge of and engagement with the industry needs to be tackled, if the industry is to successfully encourage and enthuse the next generation of logistics professionals. Much more could be done to encourage young people to take up a career in the industry, which rarely appears on the radar of school careers officers or recruitment specialists.