The way forward

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How quickly time passes and change takes place. For example, it may be hard to believe, but up until a decade ago little reference was made in the logistics industry to freight villages. The reason was simple. There were very few of them around, if any, or they were in the early embryonic stage of development. Furthermore, there was no accepted definition of what exactly constituted a freight village. The textbooks of the day would have offered no guidance on the topic.

Yet, within such a relatively short space of time the concept, and practicalities, of freight villages have caught the industry’s imagination. Today, terms such as intermodal, multimodal or trimodal freight villages are common usage language throughout the logistics industry. Furthermore, Britain can now boast about the existence of almost a dozen modern and strategically located major freight villages.

The planning and development of a modern freight village is not for the faint-hearted, and as such requires a great deal of time, money and commitment, coupled with strong professional skills and audacity before final fruition. Even then there is no guarantee of success, as the whole process is fraught with risk. As a contemporary example, no better case can be quoted than the rejection of the London International Freight Exchange (LIFE) proposal, which failed after four years of planning work and £10M in costs.

An indication of the complicated and lengthy time consuming process involved in planning and submitting an application for the building of a freight village is illustrated in Box 1.

Despite, such a long-winded and expensive process there are currently plans to build in Britain a number of even larger freight villages. These will provide a wider choice of transport modes and presently are in the planning application stage. In continental Europe an entire network of as multimodal or trimodal developments.

Among these was Burford Group’s 183 hectare (452 acre) Cabot Park development at Bristol, adjacent to Avonmouth Docks and the M5’s J18. Developments, such as Cabot Park were in a strong position for the future, having the capability to not only provide rail and road transport facilities, but also access to deep sea shipping and coastal lanes. Additionally, during recent years Cabot Park benefited from several external developments, making the site a more attractive logistics location. These included:-

lCompletion of the Second Severn Bridge Crossing and the M49, which linked directly into J18 of the M5, giving Cabot Park users even greater road accessibility.

lIncreasingly, the Avonmouth area was transformed from primarily being a manufacturing base to becoming more recognised as a key strategic logistics location.

lGovernment and EU transport policy, and legislative measures, were increasingly promoting integrated and sustainable distribution, especially the use of rail and water freight.

Responding to these developments, Burford invested heavily in new roads, the provision of extensive utility services and landscaping to support its Cabot Park site. Indeed, in terms of time, money, commitment and organisational skills the building of a freight village, such as Cabot Park, is similar in scale to building a small town. The Cabot Park photos give an indication on type of scale and cost involved in building a modern freight village.

To further enhance the site, Burford opened up a new multimodal facility in a joint venture with the Bristol Port Company, known as Cabot Park International Rail Freight Terminal. In the process this assisted opening up direct rail and deep/short sea shipping connections with the rest of Britain, the pan-European and global markets. In terms of a £6M investment this new multimodal terminal included a significant expansion of rail freight facilities at Avonmouth Docks and new infrastructure, such as a £2M gantry crane for container movements from ship to rail/road.

The new terminal is now fully multimodal, operational and links to the national road and rail networks. The terminal also allows open access to Cabot Park occupiers, independent rail companies and road users. As such this substantial joint investment by Burford and Bristol Port benefits the immediate Avonmouth area and the port complex, as well as the wider South-west region as a whole.

Bristol Port can accommodate 70,000 TEUs per month and the new rail terminal assists to further build upon Cabot Park’s position as the South-west’s premier logistics location for multimodal operators.

Furthermore, during recent years Bristol Port commenced a substantial £22M rail project at its Portbury Docks, following an acquired SRA grant of £15.6M to re-open the Portishead rail line. These initiatives place Bristol at the forefront of multimodal freight, both in Britain and Europe. Cabot Park is the largest multimodal freight village in the South-west and, during recent months, has attracted high profile companies such as DFDS, Wiseman Dairies and Scottish & Newcastle breweries.

The future

It is becoming apparent that the future prospects of freight villages are bright. Why? For starters, environmental concerns are becoming more acute, road congestion throughout Britain and Europe is a major issue and fuel prices will continue to increase. At the same time consumers and industry’s requirements will still need to be serviced by a transport and logistics system that is cost and energy efficient. In the future the efficient supply of such services will become more essential for companies to remain competitive.

Furthermore, national governments and the EU are committed to funding and promoting alternative transport modes in the interest of sustainable distribution. Official bodies are increasingly keen to see a modal shift from road to rail and water. In terms of international trade Britain’s has increasingly been dependent upon the European market.

Today, more than 60% of Britain’s international trade is with Europe, a figure that is likely to increase in forthcoming years, especially following the enlargements of the EU. Later this year, ten new member states, mostly east European, join the EU.Geographically, this means the new enlarged EU becomes more elongated in terms of time and distance, thereby making alternative transport modes a more attractive proposition, in comparison to road, for the movement of long distance freight movements.

Finally, there are plans to build several new large-scale trimodal freight villages. These will help complete the British national network of such facilities. These include a large development planned on a former Shell site on the Thames by P&O for a major sea, rail and road freight village, to be called London Gateway. At the same time Burford has plans to build a freight village, Trafford Interchange, south of Manchester and adjacent to the Ship Canal on a site which forms part of Shell’s 1,400 acre Carrington Industrial Estate. This could ultimately create some 400,000sq m of distribution and industrial space. The company also has plans to roll out a European-wide network of multimodal freight villages.

In the final analysis freight villages, linked to a national and substantial European network of similar freight villages will become more essential in the future. Increasingly, the logistics industry will require freight facilities that offer choice, convenience, and cost-effective and efficient access to markets. It is anticipated that freight villages will be in a prime position to fulfil that role in forthcoming years. n

Frank Worsford works in the transport studies group at the University of Westminster.Source: Martin Tonks Planning ServiceskSupporting InformationPublic Inquiry into ApplicationGain Planning ConsentEconomic

JustificationA planning application can be pursued without the support of an allocation in the Regional Planning Guidance or Development Plan but it will stand a very much lower chance of success if it has not got this policy support. Regional Planning Guidance and Development Plans are reviewed every five years, therefore hitting the windows for submitting representations and promoting your site might not be possible within the three-year (minimum) timescale and it could take five years or more to successfully get an allocation in RPG and / or the DP. The planning application can be submitted and pursued in tandem or shortly behind the policy support strategy and the supporting information for the application can be used in support of the representations. It should be noted that throughout this process in the background the development team need to be lobbying senior officers and politicians at the regional and local level explaining the proposal and its benefits. integrated freight villages has been built during the 1990s. Indeed, the Europeans have gone one step further and formally defined the term freight village, as stated in Box 2.

Rapid growth

In a sense it is strange how such a major industry transformation takes place, so quickly and almost unnoticed, in the development of these massively expensive, time consuming and complicated static logistics facilities? A number of factors explain their growth including:-

A fundamental change in warehousing requirements.

The opening of the Channel Tunnel in 1993.

The privatisation of the railway industry.

The decline of Britain’s old industrial base industries.

Government policy promoting greater sustainability in transport.

First, up until the early 1990s, the logistics industry’s attention still focused on distribution parks as the way forward for the future. These dedicated logistics parks, offered a variety of large sized purpose-built warehousing, located on well-designed and landscaped sites. For potential users such sites provided several benefits and attractions. For example, in addition to offering good security features and 24/7 operational capability the distribution parks were also built adjacent to the main motorway network. For a road dominated industry the provision of excellent transport accessibility was a bonus.

However, in a sense therein lay a fundamental flaw in such locations. Distribution parks were dependent on a single mode – road transport. But the world was changing, and fast. The 1990s were a period of growing concern and unease about environmental impact, air pollution and associated health issues. Terms such as global warming, the greenhouse effect, ozone depletion, and especially, sustainability could no longer be ignored.

More worrying for the industry is the situation of worsening road congestion, tolls, increasing fuel prices, Working Time Directive and ever increasing legislative stringency on transport planning applications.

From the strategic perspective visionaries in logistics management began to re-think the risk of putting all their eggs in one basket, thereby giving more consideration to the possibilities of alternative transport, especially rail and water. In essence what was required were developments that retained all the benefits and attractions of modern distribution parks, but which also gave users a choice of transport modes. In short, logistics facilities that enabled companies to compete more effectively with and the challenges in the new millennium.

A second factor boosting the growth of freight villages was the momentous event in 1993 – the opening of the Channel Tunnel. In essence, this meant that for the first time in thousands of years there was now a direct land link between Britain and mainland Europe. This event opened up the possibilities of linking directly into a pan-European rail freight-served market from a wide geographical spread of sites throughout Britain – providing the essential intermodal infrastructure was in place. In short, this would necessitate the building of a strategic network of freight villages.

The third factor was the privatisation of the rail industry in the mid 1990s. This gave rise to a number of rail freight providers, among them English, Scottish & Welsh (EWS), which focused on the development of business within Britain and between Britain and mainland Europe to offer attractive seamless rail service packages. Companies such as EWS were offering trainloads/wagonloads services for the following:-

lMajor logistics operators wishing to replace road trunk hauls with dedicated rail movements between intermodal terminals.

lFor customers with significant volumes moving between rail-connected manufacturing plants and distribution

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