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Chancellors statement: Freight transport frustration

The Freight Transport Association is disappointed that two years after the Burns Report into Freight Taxation and Competition identified key safety and economic problems linked to the operation of low taxed and poorly regulated foreign vehicles, the Department for Transport Feasibility Study into future enforcement and taxation has still failed to produce any meaningful response.

The latest progress report published today (9 October) concludes with four possible options for recording of data designed to assist UK enforcement authorities. The work of the Freight Data Feasibility Study is continuing and Part Two is expected to be finalised later this year.

This latest report suggests that none of the four leading options provides value for money because 'the quantifiable, congestion, environmental and other social benefits…… appear relatively limited'.

Theo de Pencier, Chief Executive of the Freight Transport Association said 'To suggest that none of the schemes proposed would result in safety benefits is frustrating and surprising and fails to recognise the Governments own statistics published just last month in Road Casualties Great Britain 2006. These statistics show that last year injury and fatal accidents involving heavy goods vehicles totalled 11,336 of which 1,072 involved foreign registered vehicles. As such although foreign vehicles represent some four per cent of lorries on UK roads they are actually involved in over 12 per cent of the accidents. FTA calculates that the annual cost of casualty accidents linked to foreign lorries is £100 million.

'There can be no doubt that the provision of more and better information as foreign lorries enter the UK would substantially aid our enforcement authorities and help to reduce these poor figures. We seem to be taking an interminable time in coming to what would seem to be a relatively simple issue of collecting this important data and I very much hope that when the conclusion of this study is published later this year we will see something rather more positive than we have seen today.'

Mr de Pencier also referred to lorry operating
costs. 'Following last weeks 2p increase in fuel duty, which put UK lorries at an even worse competitive situation against foreign visitors, it seems increasingly clear that the vignette option will make no real impact on levelling the competitive playing field which has been so distorted by the increasing operation of foreign vehicles in the UK working on cheap continental fuel together with other cost savings. This conclusion makes the increase in fuel duty even more exasperating for the domestic transport market and once again points to the need for a fundamental change in the way goods vehicles are taxed.'

FTA says that the Chancellors spending statement did, at least, provide long term commitment to funding transport infrastructure at a rate of two and one quarter per cent above inflation until 2018. However, that rate is no more than the current commitment and the Chancellor said that the Crossrail project would also be funded from this same source thus reducing availability for other essential projects. The statement also referred to the recommendations of Sir Rod Eddington in respect of future investment in roads. FTA is disappointed that there is apparently little prospect of substantial investment in the short term future and, consequently, freight's day to day operation seems doomed to continue to experience further congestion on an increasingly worn out roads network.

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