Freight transport policy needs a new vision

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A new study calls for radical changes to freight transport policy to enable logistics is to continue to be a major driver of economic growth.

The report by LCP Consulting, “UK freight transport: setting a coherent strategy and direction for 2020 and beyond”, highlights the fact that the work of over a million vans and foreign-registered lorries –  six per cent of the total distance travelled by lorries on British roads –  is going unrecorded.

It also points out that off-shoring of UK manufacturing and growth in global sourcing has distorted national statistics, and a previous commitment to define freight flows by sector is not yet fulfilled.

LCP chairman Professor Alan Braithwaite said: “Future freight and logistics development is unlikely to meet the goals for carbon reduction and economic performance unless positive policy actions are taken. These will involve a combination of taxation to promote more efficient use of resources, regulation to drive more efficient, safe, clean and fair operations and planning processes that enable innovation and investment to deliver a step change.”

Highlighting one of eight key conclusions, Braithwaite said: “The network for freight and logistics that will enable it to contribute to reduced congestion and improve economic and environmental effectiveness is a much wider challenge than has been articulated. It involves complex interactions of capacity and flows and with passenger movements. This has yet to be adequately recognised in policy development partly because of deficiencies in the available data and modelling.”

The other seven key points are:

* The freight and logistics sector has made a substantial contribution to past UK economic success. Indeed, subject to concerns over the completeness and reliability of the data, freight and logistics has punched above its weight over the past ten years, delivering economic growth with improving freight efficiency

* Freight and logistics will need to make a significant contribution to meeting longer term congestion and climate change goals. This will require a basket of radical measures incorporating technical, modal and supply chain structural dimensions.

* Since the freight and logistics element of transport strategy will be fulfilled in future through a combination of private and public funding, it will be crucial that there is an integrated public-private vision and high-level plan within which competitive markets can operate.

* There is limited prospect of normal rates of freight and logistics development meeting the goals for carbon reduction and economic performance; positive policy actions will be needed to ensure the future contribution from freight and logistics.

* There is a credible bundle of fiscal, regulatory and planning measures that have the potential to deliver transformation of UK freight and logistics. Formalising this bundle will require an integrated vision and a quality evidence base that does not exist today because of the constraints of the data that is collected and the process that has been followed hitherto.

* Notwithstanding a commitment to evidence based policy, the data base for freight and logistics policy development is limited and will require a major remedial effort to provide a platform on which integrated policy for freight transport can be developed.

* The creation of the transport strategy vision will require exceptional skills and tools to facilitate the adoption of key policy measures and win the buy-in of all the stakeholders including political representatives, operators and private investors.


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