UK freight on the rise

Transport experts yesterday warned of the increasing pressures facing British infrastructure yesterday, due to all areas of freight seeing substantial growth. Speaking at the Westminster Energy Environment and Transport Forum, […]

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By Tom Gibson

Transport experts yesterday warned of the increasing pressures facing British infrastructure yesterday, due to all areas of freight seeing substantial growth.

Speaking at the Westminster Energy Environment and Transport Forum, industry leaders from the UK and Europe signalled a shift in freight use as more goods will be shipped on the railways as part of the UK hitting targets for lower CO2 emissions.

Chris Welsh, General Manager at the Freight Transport Association said: “Rail freight, since privatisation, has increased significantly and has been the hidden success story. It’s projected to grow by 84% by 2020.”

Motorway freight will feel the pressure as no new roads will be built and with an increasing number of cars joining the roads and HGV activity returning to pre-recession levels.

The UK has also seen a 79% rise since the 1990s in air freight reflecting an increase in international trade.

Mr Welsh added: “As an island nation our port traffic represents more than any other European country, so there’s going to be a lot of pressure on our ports.”

Patricia Hayes, the recently appointed director of the Roads Directorate at the Department for Transport, set out the department’s goals: “We have a business plan for the Department of Transport. We have a vision for a transport system that is an engine for economic growth doing its bit to help transport help the recovery. Also we have to be safer and have a social and environmental obligation.”

However the word in Europe was sustainability. Nina Renshaw, Deputy Director of the European Federation for Transport & Environment said urgent action needed to be taken: “What can the European Union do? They can look at fair pricing and smarter spending. Fair pricing really is the number one measure to cleaning up the freight transport industry.”

A ‘joined up’ approach appeared to be what those in Europe were asking of the European Commission, to enact broader, carbon-free targets, across the continent to improve efficiency.