Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Ports to Benefit as Freight Forwarding Association Cautiously Approves Government Road Plans

Spending Commitment to Upgrade Strategic English Highway Network
Shipping News Feature

UK – In March 2017 the UK government published its proposed 'Road to Growth' plan to improve Britain's Strategic Road Network (SRN) followed a year later by the latest version of its Road Investment Strategy (RIS2). The bill for these developments? A total of £25 billion, partially prompted of course by a looming Brexit. Now the country's leading freight forwarding organisation has commented on the latest government statement.

This commitment by the previous administration to invest that £25 billion in England’s road transport infrastructure has received a cautious welcome from the British International Freight Association (BIFA), a response obviously somewhat qualified in the current political circumstances, the like of which have not be seen, certainly in a generation. BIFA Director General, Robert Keen, observed:

“We have regularly said that there has been too little investment in the UK road infrastructure network over many years. This lack of spending has caused the country’s network of A roads and motorways to become congested, undermining the UK’s competitiveness in comparison to its international peers. BIFA has said repeatedly that it is imperative that new road building and road reconstruction projects are not only implemented, but developed in such a way as to maximise their functionality.

“Whilst today’s announcement does not appear to be additional funding to that announced by the previous administration, it does offer some clarity on where the funds will be spent between 2020 and 2025, with 14 of England's major roads being upgraded, including the widening of the A12, that key artery to and from the port of Felixstowe.

“That will be welcome news for BIFA members, which as freight forwarders, rely on the road network to move Britain’s visible domestic and international trade. We are now hopeful that talk of infrastructure investment will cease to be just talk and we will see some spades in the ground.”

The uncertainties which currently surround the latest Conservative administration mean possibly that government statements are even less trusted than previously. There has been a divisiveness to a degree not seen for many years with many critical of government transport policy. Whilst road spending of the type promised would certainly be approved by the freight community many question how that fits with the drive to cut emissions.

The £57 billion and rising bill for HS2 has produced further controversy. The government has said this too will benefit multimodal traffic but its effect will surely be limited at best. Critics say the funds devoted to the scheme could have been used to upgrade the entire rail network and produced better environmental and practical returns in terms of tonnage shifted countrywide.

Photo: Briton’s hope for a full commitment to government transport policy.