Friday, May 15, 2020

Billions Promised for Transport Investment - but Freight Lobby Questions if This is New Money

Cautious Welcome for Government Undertaking on Road and Rail Infrastructure
Shipping News Feature

UK – The announcement that the government is to invest £2 billion in upgrading transport infrastructure has been met with some caution by the various groups which represent the freight community. Promises have been made previously and there is bound to be a degree of cynicism, along with the obvious welcome, until details of whether these are new funds and how and where the money will be allocated.

Speaking at the daily Number 10 virus briefing yesterday, Transport Minister Grant Shapps enthused over investing in more electric road transport, and commented that the lull caused by the coronavirus had seen vast amounts of public works undertaken whilst traffic had been lower than seen in decades. He continued:

”I can announce £2 billion for our roads and railways, to put our transport infrastructure in the best possible shape and to get our economy growing once again. This package includes £1.7 billion for local roads making journeys smoother and safer for drivers, hauliers, motorcyclists, cyclists, pedestrians and others.

”By filling millions of dangerous potholes we can make our roads safer and encourage more people to cycle, or even take part in the upcoming E scooter trials, helping more people play our part in relieving public pressure on public transport.’

The full announcement can be seen here.

Typically the British International Freight Association (BIFA) gave a cautious welcome to the news, with BIFA Director General, Robert Keen making his observations on behalf of the country’s freight forwarding community. He said:

“We have regularly said that there has been a distinct lack of investment in the UK transport infrastructure network over many years. Prior to the lockdown, this lack of spending had caused the country’s network of major roads and motorways to become congested, undermining the UK’s competitiveness in comparison to its international peers.

“In September 2019, the new government announced some £25 billion of investment in the country’s road transport infrastructure. Although we expressed our belief that this did not appear to be additional funding to that announced by the previous administration, we were pleased that the announcement offered some clarity on where the funds would be spent between 2020 and 2025.

“It would be interesting to know how much of that investment has actually been started since September 2019, and on what schemes. As previously, we can only express our hope that the latest announcement about infrastructure investments is not just talk and we see some spades in the ground.”

The reaction from the Freight Transport Association (FTA) was a little more positive with Elizabeth de Jong, FTA’s policy director responding thus to the news:

“[The] commitment to a multimillion pound infrastructure investment programme for road and rail across the UK is welcome news for the logistics industry, which has worked tirelessly to keep Britain trading throughout the Covid-19 crisis. The impact of the pandemic on public finances and the wider economy is posing unprecedented challenges which must be overcome if our sector is to assist in the nation’s economic recovery, and central to that boost is the need for a world class infrastructure.

“Efficient and effective transport infrastructure is vital for logistics to be able to support the needs of UK businesses, with efficient interchanges and increased service options across all modes of transport, which will ensure that the freight the country needs can keep moving freely on road, rail, sea or air.

”As the recovery begins, we urge the government to continue its focus on the needs of the logistics sector when designing new transport network options, so that deliveries can be made safely and effectively alongside the introduction of new cycling and walking routes.”