Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Road Haulage and Freight Interests Welcome Government Investment in Infrastructure

Minister Releases 'Action for Roads' Plan and Favours Electric Vehicles
Shipping News Feature

UK – Yesterday the government released its blueprint for ‘Roads for the 21st Century’ stating it will implement reforms to tackle what it terms ‘decades of underinvestment’. There will be half a billion pounds made available in extra funding to promote electric vehicles plus £12 billion for road maintenance and resurfacing. There was also the launch of a Roads Command Paper ‘Action for Roads’ dealing specifically with English roads. The reforms proposed have been broadly welcomed by road haulage interests including the Freight Transport Association (FTA) as detailed in our story at the beginning of this month.

England’s major roads are to get a guarantee of a large increase in funding, locked into a long term settlement, backed by law. The national network of motorways and trunk roads will get extra lanes, smoother, quieter surfaces, improved junctions and new sections in key areas under the published plan and the money is said to have been ring-fenced during last month’s spending review when £28 billion was set aside.

The Action for Roads Command Paper outlines how the Highways Agency will convert into a publicly owned company with guaranteed funding for six years, the FTA says it has long argued for the change to achieve greater accountability for services provided on UK roads. It goes on to say the needs of the freight industry must be included as part of the changes and that a ‘Champion of Roads’ is required to consider all road users, including haulage groups. Karen Dee, FTA Director of Policy said:

“The FTA welcomes the proposals put forward in the Roads Command Paper and believes that these will offer good opportunities to deliver a system which means greater accountability for the services provided on our roads, and additionally it should supply greater certainty of funding.

“Moving forward, it is vital to have a method in place which enables the industry to monitor the new company in its meeting performance - in order to create confidence. FTA also recognises that the proposals could deliver enormous benefits to our members and that there is a definite need for a ‘Champion’ for road users who will consider the needs of freight and not just those of the motorist.”

The Command Paper states that the new company will be wholly owned by the government (a move which is in line with recommendations made to government last year in the Cook Report), and builds on the announcement made following the Spending Round (Investing in Britain’s Future). It also sets out more details concerning the reforms to the Highways Agency, and outlines support for local roads and changes to improve roads for cyclists and local communities.