Declan’s policy update: Chambers’ Transport Form and the future of freight

Meeting held round a table with laptops and goody bags

Our Transport Forum recently held its first meeting of 2023.  The main topic of discussion centred around freight, and we were pleased to get an update from Midlands Connect, the sub-national transport body covering the East & West Midlands.

Staffordshire lies at the heart of the UK’s freight network and Midlands Connect is planning to deliver its ‘Economy & Freight Programme’ which will support the ‘Future of Freight’ strategy from the Department for Transport (DfT).  This programme takes a combined view of the economy and freight, to address several strategic questions, namely:

  • How do we ensure we have transport infrastructure that supports the effective movement of goods?
  • What infrastructure is needed to allow our regional economy to grow?
  • How do we build a pathway to net zero incorporating the need for key sectors to minimise emissions?

Freight plays such a key role in our regional economy, not just through the significant numbers of jobs in sectors such as automotive, food and logistics but because an eye watering 80% of all freight in the UK passes through the Midlands, either by road or rail.  With much of the UK reached within four hours of the Midlands, it’s easy to see why the region has developed a reputation for being the “golden triangle” for logistics.

This also means the region is a hotspot for delays and extensive improvement works as road and railways struggle to cope with ever increasing demand.

Recently, we’ve seen major disruption to supply chains by events such as the pandemic, Brexit and the Suez Canal blockage.  Such events highlight the need to reduce the risk of future shocks affecting supply chains.

The freight sector is also aware of the need to focus on decarbonisation of the fleet; however, this comes at significant expense to hauliers. If we are to change the way we fuel fleets of lorries, there must be extensive charging infrastructure in place around the UK, using future technologies and ensuring smooth and efficient refuelling.  Driver welfare also needs to be addressed, with adequate rest and changing facilities, showers and accommodation.

Midlands Connect is keen to get the views of key stakeholders in the coming months and your views will be welcomed.  Our Transport Forum meets every quarter and plays a key role in shaping the Chambers’ transport policy including air, sea, road to rail.  We meet again on Tuesday 25th April and if you would like to join us, or would like to find out more about the forum please contact me: declan.riddell@staffordshirechambers.co.uk

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