A new deal for logistics?

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Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men. The words of a radio shock-jock? Or, perhaps, a recent article in one of our more florid national newspapers?

No. The words come from Franklin D Roosevelt describing the challenge when he became president of the United States in 1932. Roosevelt’s first hundred days in office were remarkable for the stream of legislation which formed the basis of his plan to break out of the great depression with what we now know as “The New Deal”.

That might have been seventy-seven years ago and in another country, but Roosevelt’s approach is busily being copied by Gordon Brown as our government struggles to ameliorate the impact of the latest recession.

A key element in the spending plan unveiled by chancellor Alistair Darling is the £1bn boost to transport networks. The question is: will all this cash simply be frittered away on pet schemes or will it make a fundamental difference to the country’s infrastructure?

A lot of the money is simply to bring forward the purchase of railway carriages and suchlike. And dualling the A46 could be brought forward by five years to give a fast link between the A1 and M1.

Darling promised £300m to improve access routes to international gateways but much of this will only benefit passengers. What will be helpful is £54m to increase the freight capacity of the North London rail line. There is also £60m for road improvements to Felixstowe and £30m for road improvements for the Humber.

But Teesport has been at the forefront of challenging government plans. It argues that modest investment in rail links from the northern ports could open the way to bringing more container traffic through the Humber and the Tees rather than using congested road and rail networks to move it from the southern ports to the north.

There will always be arguments over the government borrowing money to stimulate the economy but one thing is certain: the money better be spent wisely because sooner or later it will have to be paid back.


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