UK – As detailed in our recent articles the professional associations responsible for the country’s shipping and freight transport interests are gathering their wits and rattling their sabres to try to ensure their members needs will be met by an incoming coalition government elected on manifesto’s primarily aimed at reducing public spending and decreasing the economic deficit. British transport infrastructure will always absorb a large portion of public spending and each sector of the industry is bound to want to increase their helping of what is liable to be a diminishing pot. Today it is the turn of the Rail Freight Group (RFG) to put their case to the new administration. The RFG has urged the Government to target investment carefully and shift funds away from road building projects and towards rail freight schemes, which they say, have the potential to remove significant numbers of lorries from major routes.
The group cite the recent case surrounding debate over funding for the proposed A14 upgrade with the planning inquiry for the expansion due to start on 20 July with, they say, anticipated costs of around £1.3 billion, an astonishing figure by any standard.
The RFG argue this development will not remove a single lorry from the road and would actually increase carbon emissions because it would not only encourage increased traffic, as has happened with previous schemes, but was actually a longer route for drivers. They point out that, in their opinion, the full upgrade to the parallel rail route between Felixstowe and Nuneaton, costed at around £250m, could remove up to 40m lorry miles from the roads each year with associated benefits in carbon reduction, pollution and road safety.
Philippa Edmunds, manager of rail campaign group Freight on Rail unsurprisingly holds similar views, she commented:
“The rail upgrade offers better value for money to the economy, environment and society than this parallel road scheme and is in line with the Government's commitment to foster economic growth and tackle climate change.”
What can be certain is that, as the public purse strings tighten, we can anticipate an increase in toll roads and a reduction in spending on grandiose schemes which may wreak collateral damage on some really worthwhile and necessary improvements to the UK’s transport infrastructure. If this administration includes an accurate level of PFI borrowing in the public accounts, which their predecessors always fought against, the reality is that any money at all for transport schemes which are not self financing, is going to be in extremely short supply for the foreseeable future.