Revamping freight and logistics across the North of England can play a vital role in rebalancing the economy and contribute to the sustainability agenda, Transport for the North (TfN) has said.
A new report prepared for the sub-national transport body says public and private investment in the North’s freight and logistics sector, including encouraging more freight on rail, could see it provide £35bn worth of benefits to the Northern Powerhouse by 2060.
The river Aire in Leeds
The Northern Freight and Logistics Report argues that the North is a ‘super region’ for freight, handling around a third of UK road, rail, distribution centre and port activity against a population that only represents 24% of the UK total.
It points out that the freight industry lies almost entirely in the private sector, but says that in building the Northern Powerhouse ‘there is a significant opportunity to improve operational efficiency in the freight and logistics industry through the provision of enhanced transport networks and optimised land use planning’.
The report makes recommendations to help reduce of the cost of freight transport, expand the global market share for the North in the logistics sector and attract inward private investment into the Northern Powerhouse and UK as a whole.
TfN chair John Cridland said: ‘This is an important report both for the private sector and for local and central government, with a range of practical suggested interventions to help create a step change in the Northern economy. We will be carefully considering these recommendations as we prepare our Strategic Transport Plan, which will be released next year.’
Interventions suggested in the report include:
- Increasing network capacity for freight to, from and within the North on railways and waterways
- Addressing pinch-points on the road network, particularly considering the pivotal role played by the M62
- Developing strategically located freight interchanges/distribution centres (Multimodal Distribution Parks) which are well connected by rail and/or waterways
- Delivering growth for Northern ports by improving connectivity to and from these hubs and by enabling shipping lines to offer more cost-effective services
- Simplifying and streamlining planning and decision making processes, to fast-track the changes needed
- Addressing training and skills gaps, creating jobs in the North and ensuring the freight industry has the human resources it requires
The report puts forward a joint approach to delivering these changes, with infrastructure improvements in the short, medium and long term delivered by the public sector working alongside commitment and investment from the private sector.