Government plans to inject an extra £1bn into transport infrastructure are too focused on the south of the country, according to PD Ports which runs Teesport in the North East.
Development director Martyn Pellew said: “Over three years ago the Government’s Northern Way initiative identified a £32bn shortfall in the economic performance of the North of England. If the government really wants to help our economy in this financial crisis and also meet the long term environmental targets that have been laid out in the recent Climate Change, Energy and Planning Bills, then it clearly needs a new direction for a sustainable future.
“Despite the obvious benefits of moving freight by rail, so far there is still considerable misdirection in the way the government treats and funds its rail network.”
PD Ports is pressing for funding to upgrade the rail link from Teesport to the East Coast Main Line so that it can handle the newer larger containers. It argues that without this, these containers will have to come into the southern ports and rely on congested inland transport links to the north and Scotland.
A significant amount of funding has gone into rail access to the country’s southern ports for increased freight shipment particularly to cope with the newer one foot higher containers bringing more and more product to UK consumers from the Far East.
Pellew said: “This latest investment will only continue the trend for shipping lines to add increasing cargo volumes on to the overcrowded southern UK infrastructure. It’s an investment that will work against itself.”
Northern UK ports employers, the rail community and major retailers have been collectively calling on the government to invest strategically on the rail infrastructure of the North and North East.
“The UK needs to invest in its Victorian-era rail network and shed its prejudices toward everything good being in and around the south east. We need new ways of thinking if we are to realise that there is a vital latent economic power that exists in the North East,” said Pellew.
PD Ports has been developing the port-centric logistics concept and Asda has already opened a 360,000sq ft import centre while Tesco plans to open a 1.2m sq ft import centre at Teesport next year.
Pellew pointed out that while the recent DfT announcement included £30 million for certain road improvements to Immingham, the East Coast ports of the Humber, Tees, Tyne and Grangemouth still have not seen money committed for urgently needed rail gauge enhancements to link these ports to the East Coast Main Line.
According to estimates, a £100 million investment in rail freight capability on the ECML would allow the UK to handle an ever increasing demand for imported containerised goods through east coast ports on the Tyne, Tees and Humber.
“The UK Government cannot continue to neglect of the North East and the ECML any longer, as this area clearly represents the most logical place for change to begin. A meagre £100 million investment into this vital rail line will have a major and direct impact for all UK business in terms of reducing cost, carbon emissions and congestion,” said Pellew.