The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has welcomed the Chancellor’s decision to inject new money into the cash-starved transport infrastructure as part of measures to get the economy moving again. The road widening schemes identified by the Chancellor are some of industry’s key trade routes but represent sections of the network where delays are endemic, leaving industry to foot the bill for wasted time, extra fuel and missed delivery slots.
Simon Chapman, FTA’s chief economist, said: “The cost of congestion for businesses and motorists exceeds £20 billion each year. This is money thrown down the drain, and a brake on growth that the economy can ill-afford. Targeted widening of the motorway and trunk road network, and adding more capacity at bottlenecks offers a very strong rate of return, of between £3 and £13 for every £1 invested. Plans to upgrade sections of industry trade routes on the A14 and the A453, and, tackle congestion blackspots on key junctions of the M25 and M1 are welcome news.
“However, increasing the long term capacity of routes such as the A14 between the East Coast port and the Midlands, and M4 in South Wales remain in the balance. Congestion on these routes will not go away by Government announcing studies, and industry will be looking for early, tangible progress in providing industry with the journey time reliability it needs.”
FTA has also welcomed the Chancellor's announcement that the Government will act to tackle planning barriers to rail freight interchanges.
Chapman continued: “Making more use of our rail network for freight traffic can yield important commercial benefits to businesses over road linked to journey time reliability. On top of this, rail freight achieves a much lower emissions footprint. Domestic intermodal traffic is an important growth sector for the market, but its potential has been hamstrung by a planning process, where local interests override national benefits; five of the last six rail freight interchange applications have been refused.
“A key problem has been that there is no policy statement from Government which applicants can rely on. The announcement of policy guidance and ministerial support will give potential investors in rail freight terminals confidence that in future the presumption of future decisions will be in favour of applications.”
Last winter industry’s supply chains were badly disrupted by snow, costing individual businesses millions of pounds. Whilst traffic on the main motorway and trunk road network kept flowing, commercial vehicles struggled to access local roads linking the main arteries to distribution centres. To help tackle this, the Chancellor announced that operational trials will take place where industry will be able to fit snowploughs to appropriate commercial vehicles to help clear access roads.
Chapman concluded: “Increasing the resilience of the road network during extreme winter weather is essential, as the cost to industry of disruption to its supply chains is immense. Smarter use of existing assets, better coordination and increased cooperation with industry could make an important difference. FTA welcomes the announcement that Government is exploring ways to harness the use of commercial vehicles in clearing important routes leading to the strategic road network, and will be actively working with operators to see if the plans can be made to work in practice.”