UK ports representatives today called for a “long overdue” new freight strategy that would stimulate national and regional development, in response to the UK government unveiling plans for its Industrial Strategy.
Welcoming the publication of the government’s Industrial Strategy White Paper today, the British Ports Association (BPA)’s chief executive, Richard Ballantyne called for “a long overdue freight strategy to aid industrial growth”. Ballantyne also suggested that ports should be prioritised in the White Paper, with greater focus on transport connectivity and planning to stimulate national and regional development.
BPA noted that the White Paper aims to improve productivity and growth, support emerging industries by embracing new technologies and encourage increased industrial investment. It also proposes the creation of an independent watchdog to monitor progress.
Commenting on the White Paper, Ballantyne said: “The Industrial Strategy is a major and long-term government exercise, but the focus is very much towards emerging technologies. It is vital that ports and freight are recognised as being essential to national and regional growth and increased international trade.
“Ports are not only international gateways, they also provide hubs for industry and employment, which the White Paper acknowledges. However it remains vital that the UK’s national transport system and in particular the road network has sufficient capacity the facilitate trade to and from our ports.
“Alongside the White Paper we would like to see a new freight strategy that recognises ports as being vital components of the logistics chain. In recent years the ports sector has seen an unprecedented increase in the level of restrictive planning conditions and environmental designations, which have regularly interfered with port activity and development. This must be addressed.”
He continued: “It is right that attention is given to the automation of industry including the impact of driverless vehicles, but we should not overlook the importance of transport infrastructure investment. The ports sector has also seen transport investment largely channelled toward ‘big ticket’ passenger projects with no real focus on freight.
“The overwhelming majority of freight is transported by road in the UK. Despite some targeted trunk road funding under the government’s Road Investment Strategy, local authorities remain under spending pressure. This has had a negative impact on local roads spending, which often includes last mile connections to ports.”
The BPA is working with partners in the umbrella group Maritime UK to prepare a bid for a maritime sector deal. The aim is that this might stimulate greater attention on measures that would enable ports to develop and grow through embracing technological changes.