Freight transport remains the Cinderella of UK industry, with insufficient investment and planning for its needs. The Welsh Assembly, together with the UK Government and local authorities throughout the UK, must exhibit a better understanding of the needs of the freight industry and take actions to support improved performance, to the benefit of both the people and the economy of Wales.
These comments were made by Richard Turner, Chief Executive of the Freight Transport Association, speaking in Cardiff today (10 May). Mr Turner was addressing the Welsh National Transport Conference at County Hall.
Mr Turner said that the industry itself had made enormous performance developments over recent years. It had become more efficient, moving more goods in fewer vehicles and journeys, making savings on fuel consumption, emissions and reduced empty running. But there was a limit to the extent of future improvements without public investment and sympathetic planning.
There was a national need for increased investment in both road and rail infrastructure following years of failure by successive governments in maintaining investment levels consistent with growth in the economy and the increased vehicle population.
Mr Turner said, 'We must better recognise the special needs of the lorry on the network and seek to avoid the awful waste of time and money generated by roads congestion and all of the loss of time and journey reliability which it results in.
'The distribution industry itself seeks to make the best use of road space across 24 hours a day and local authorities should carefully consider reviewing night lorry bans in order to allow out of hours deliveries. And we need some innovative thinking to allow lorries to consider more flexibility on loading and unloading; the prospect of lorries sharing bus lanes; we should look at alternatives to weight and time restrictions.
'The forthcoming Wales Freight Strategy must be designed to consider the needs for smoother access to towns and cities by lorries and other delivery vehicles. The Strategy must appreciate the importance to both industry and the consumer for the transport industry to be able to deliver the goods – both economically and efficiently.'
The Freight Transport Association represents the interests of companies moving goods by road, rail, sea and air. FTA members operate over 200,000 goods vehicles – almost half the UK fleet. In addition they consign over 90 per cent of the freight moved by rail and over 70 per cent of sea and air freight.