Wednesday, September 16, 2009

FTA Plans To Lobby Political Conferences

Calls for greater and longer-term infrastructure planning and investment
Shipping News Feature

UK - A leading transport group has called on politicians not to shy away from infrastructure investment because of the recession. The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has said that, by building a more efficient transport network, politicians could help rebuild the UK economy and help meet Britain’s climate change ambitions.

The FTA, which represents over 14,000 members operating across all modes of transport, will be taking this message to the party conferences with a view to influencing manifestos ahead of next year’s General Election.

James Hookham, FTA’s director of policy, said:

“Having a transport network that’s fit for purpose is not an optional extra for any country looking to have a successful economy. Every industry relies upon transport, whether it’s getting goods to market or simply ensuring there’s paper for the photocopier, but congestion, whether it’s on roads or on the rails, not only impedes Britain’s ability to compete, but can also increase our carbon emissions.”

Rather than a full-frontal road building programme, FTA is urging politicians to take a more intelligent approach, making full use of the infrastructure already available and encouraging greater interchange between the different modes. Moving goods between road and rail or rail and sea can be challenging and costly, yet these are areas where, with the right political backing and investment, Britain’s trading position could be much improved.

Hookham explained:

“We support the calls from politicians to put more freight on rail, not least to free up road capacity for those businesses that have no choice but to use them. However, politicians seem less enthusiastic when it comes to supporting the building of more rail interchanges or even boosting rail access for freight by bringing down access charges. Britain’s economic future needs them to put their might where their mouths are.”

FTA has been encouraged by recent forward-thinking announcements on infrastructure – such as electrification of the Great Western rail line – but remains concerned that politicians are still loath to embrace further investment in case they are unable to reap the political benefits.

Hookham concluded:

“Serious infrastructure investment and improvement cannot be sorted out in four or five years, which tends to be the focus of most politicians, who always have their eye on the next General Election. Instead of wondering whether it will be they or their political opponents who get to cut the ribbon on an improved stretch of road or new port, they need to be thinking about the ongoing economic interests of the country.”