Monday, December 1, 2014

Road Haulage and Freight Forwarding Interests Welcome Road Infrastructure Improvement Plans

However Doubts Cast as to What the Money will Achieve if the Talking is Finally Over
Shipping News Feature

UK – Representatives from both the Road Haulage Association (RHA) and the British International Freight Association (BIFA), which represents the forwarding community, have welcomed the government’s announcement that it is to invest £15 billion in the country’s road infrastructure. Both organisation’s however tempered their enthusiasm with notes of caution, perhaps unsurprised that such news comes out in the run up to a General Election.

For its part BIFA gave the initial proposals a cautionary welcome saying that it 'expected to see some spades in the ground' when the investment plan was announced in 2013 and the same note could be distinguished in the comments this week of BIFA Director General, Robert Keen, who said:

"Many times over the last 20 years, BIFA has welcomed the news that governments would allocate finance to infrastructure improvement projects, including roads and railways. We understand that the plans being announced today are for around 100 road improvement schemes and the addition of 1,300 new miles of extra lanes to motorways and A roads. On behalf of our members, which rely on the UK roads network to collect and deliver the vast majority of the UK's imports and exports, we hope that the plans mean that the talking is over and we will actually see construction taking place."

The RHA was more specific in its criticism maintaining that, although it welcomed news of the proposals, without the comparatively minimal sum of £150 million to train desperately needed truck drivers, it will not be the UK’s hauliers that benefit from the improvements but those based in continental Europe and conducting business in Britain. RHA Chief Executive Richard Burnett explained:

“For those operating in the road transport and logistics sector, time is money. Ours is an industry that is time critical and today’s announcement will come as good news to UK hauliers. The plans to tackle congestion and fix some of the most notorious and longstanding problem areas on the network are particularly welcome.

“However, road improvements are just part of the jigsaw. The fact remains that this industry is now facing a critical driver shortage. While road improvements and road building are good news, they will have little effect on the industry that, quite literally moves the economy forward if there are not enough HGV drivers to take advantage of the improvements. We need government to invest in training for drivers. This announcement makes it clear that the money is there, it makes sense that funding for training is made available.

“The Road Haulage Association is asking the Chancellor for an industry investment of less than £150 million. This would provide training for the 45,000 drivers the industry so desperately needs. This is a drop in the ocean compared to the announced £15 billion spend.

“As well as increased capacity and a transformation of the busiest sections of the network, we welcome the government move to transform the Highways Agency into a government-owned company. This will mean funding can be allocated on a longer term basis, saving the taxpayer at least £2.6 billion over the next ten years.

"The planned improvements, repairs and expansion of Britain’s infrastructure will provide much needed employment opportunities across the entire road system. But it is essential that these schemes are completed on time, on budget and with as little disruption to the already clogged road network.”

New projects announced include:

South West: a commitment of £2 billion to dual the entire A303 and A358 to the south west, including a tunnel at Stonehenge. This will allow roads users to drive on a dual carriageway from London to within 15 miles of Land’s End;

North East: setting aside £290 million to complete the dualling of the A1 all the way from London to Ellingham, just 25 miles from the Scottish border, to make the Great North Road truly great again;

North West and Yorkshire: driving forward the Northern Powerhouse by completing the smart motorway along the entire length of the M62 from Manchester to Leeds, together with improvements to trans Pennine capacity from Manchester to Sheffield, representing the first such increase in capacity since 1971;

North West: committing to improve links to the Port of Liverpool, as part of a plan of 12 projects designed to improve access to major international gateways on which the nation’s international trade depends;

South East: funding £350 million of improvements to the A27 along the south coast, tackling severe congestion at Arundel, Worthing and Lewes – consulting with the local community on options;

East of England: investing £300 million to upgrade the east-west connection to Norfolk, by dualling sections of the A47 and improving its connections to the A1 and A11, building on the recently completed full dualling of the A11 from London to Norwich, to ensure the east of England has the connections it deserves;

London and the South East: improving one-third of the junctions on the entire M25, to aid frustrated commuters stuck in traffic around the capital; and

Midlands: improving the M42 to the east of Birmingham, improving the connectivity to Birmingham airport, the National Exhibition Centre, the local Enterprise Zone, and pave the way for the new High Speed 2 interchange station.