British ports welcomes NIC interim ‘Future of Freight’ report

Responding to the publication of the National Infrastructure Commission’s interim report into the Future of Freight, the British Ports Association has called on Government to review its freight strategy and prioritise port connectivity initiatives. On the report, the British Ports Association’s Chief Executive, Richard Ballantyne welcomed the focus on the UK’s long-term transport challenges but called for the initiative to be reinforced with clear public investment aspirations in freight and network connectivity. He suggested:

“We welcome the National Infrastructure Commission’s progress. The interim report provides an important reminder to Government about the importance of freight transport. It also highlights some of the challenges the nation faces in terms of our ageing transport infrastructure. The UK’s transport network is vital for ports and everyone in the freight and logistics sector.”

UK ports are independent of Government and responsible for their own infrastructure. They are however reliant on good connections, particularly publicly managed roads, which can be subject political and funding considerations. Mr Ballantyne continued:

“While we support a long-term approach we are keen that the NIC’s work leads to clearer funding commitments and soon. In recent years Government has focused investment towards ‘big ticket’ passenger schemes and it is important that freight is not neglected to help the UK remain competitive.

Recently the UK Department for Transport has undertaken an assessment of Port Connectivity needs in England and its Road Investment Strategy has received a welcome boost in funding. As 95% of UK trade passes through British ports and it is vital for the prosperity of this country that goods continue to flow seamlessly across our transport network. That means investment in transport infrastructure and links to ports.

We would also like to see some visionary economic growth policies which could see ports become hubs of regional economic activity stimulating more trade and jobs. We are promoting a concept of defining certain coastal areas as ‘Port Development and Enterprise Zones’ which could have preferential planning and business rules to support regional growth. We would press that future freight or industrial strategy should incorporate these ideas.”

Alongside the Budget in November 2017, the Chancellor asked the National Infrastructure Commission to provide the Government to assess freight infrastructure over the next 30 years. This included approaches needed to help manage the impacts of emissions and congestion associated with freight. On environmental impacts Mr Ballantyne added:

“In terms of the UK’s green transport strategies, during our on-going engagement we will be encouraging the NIC to recommend more attention is given to the opporunities for increased coastal shipping. The UK Government is now re-examining the concept of increasing the use of water for freight transport and we would like to see a renewed focus and a new impetus coastal shipping policy.”

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