Transport secretary Geoff Hoon has said freight is key to the competitiveness of the UK economy in a new Department for Transport policy document published today (16th December 2008).
The blueprint, “Delivering a sustainable transport system: the logistics perspective”, looks at the effectiveness of the current system and the most efficient and eco-friendly way to transport goods, bearing in mind the sector has doubled in size in Britain over the past 40 years.
Hoon said: “We have a world-leading freight industry, which contributes significantly to the economy of this country whether by road, rail, water or air.
“I want to make sure that we keep Britain moving, mindful of our natural environment. I want to work closely with freight stakeholders so we remain competitive.
“That is why I am publishing this document today and I look forward to seeing greater co-operation to reduce congestion and increase capacity on our networks.”
The report also suggests that the government and industry need to continue to work together to understand the impact freight has on the environment, as well as noise and accident levels, in addition to the importance of driver training.
Furthermore, DFT is beginning a study into the length of articulated lorries, which will look at whether an increase of up to two metres in length could reduce congestion on the roads.
The document concludes that if funding it properly directed, reliability can improve while congestion and emissions are lowered.
The Freight Transport Association has “warmly welcomed” the findings of the publication.
Chris Welsh, general campaigns manager at the FTA, said: “Not only is this document a clear indication that the government is more disposed to treat freight and logistics with the respect it deserves, but the commitment to investment it sets out will help enable the FTA and its members to deliver our ambitions.
“Key to the policy’s worth is its understanding of the pressures on our industry, across the modes. For example, it now claims to look at the composition of freight traffic on key routes and ‘seeks to understand more fully the factors generating freight demand on them’. This is good stuff and the DFT deserves a pat on the back for recognising that freight really does matter.
“While the policy document represents a significant step forward in the way in which freight is recognised, it must not divert ministers’ attention away from the burning issues that are on our short-range radar. VOSA modernisation, the EU Vignette and domestic drivers’ hours are just some of the matters that need urgent attention if the logistics industry is to fulfil the potential that Geoff Hoon clearly believes it has.”
The DFT has already committed £67 million to cutting freight costs and emissions, which includes projects such as the Safe and Fuel Efficient Driving programme.
In addition, more than £330 million has been allocated to allow more freight on the East Coast Mainline and North London Line last month, which will help reduce congestion and delays for freight and high speed passenger services.
The full report can be viewed at: http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/freight/dastslogistics.pdf