Calls for a more environmental approach to the UK’s freight network should not ignore the realities of the real world, according to Kevin Richardson, CEO of the Chartered Institute of Transport & Logistics (CILT) in the UK.

The recent report from the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) calls on the government to decarbonise road and rail freight by 2050 along with tackling the industry’s contribution towards road congestion. The wide-ranging report cites a number of areas where the transport and logistics sector can help reduce the harmful emissions by incorporating freight needs into infrastructure planning.

Kevin Richardson sees the call for better planning use as a vital first step in this process.

“One of the recommendations from the NIC report is better use of available land for logistic operations. This is something we have been talking about for many years: the ability to reduce carbon emissions and congestion on our roads goes hand in hand with the right infrastructure. It is interesting to read the calls for the ban in sales of new petrol and diesel HGVs by 2040. This is an area where the logistics industry has always led the way. The use of electric vehicles for deliveries has almost been pioneered by the sector.”

The NIC report (‘Better Delivery: the challenge for freight’) recommends that city planning authorities look at freight as part of their long term infrastructure strategies alongside transport, homes and jobs to reduce future congestion.  Kevin Richardson believes this has rarely been the case with most local authority or government planning.

“Freight and the important part it plays in the UK economy have always been lauded as a vital element in keeping the country moving and yet planners seem to see it as an add-on rather than something to be introduced at the pre-planning stage. It is only once the issues of emissions, congestion and environmental pressures raise their heads do these bodies tell us we need to do something. The reality is that the government has always been slow to react to the pressures from with the freight world and now the pressures from the environmental lobbies grow, so does the call for action become more vocal.”

The CILT has welcomed the overall tone of the new report but wants to see more details worked between government, local authorities and the freight industry, according to Jolyon Drury, the CILT Public Planning Committee Chair.

“With freight such an important part of the UK economy it is vital that something more concrete than lip-service is paid to its recommendations and calls for action. We certainly welcome the inclusion of ports and their infrastructure into the reckoning as developing a feasible plan to reduce congestion will need to embrace the symbiosis between ports and the road networks. The use of rail freight continues to provide alternatives to road congestion and emissions and we need to keep the pressure on the government not to abandon its plans for better rail freight provision. At the CILT we take an overall view of the UK’s transport, freight and logistics operations. It’s really time for the government and associated bodies to get together and bring about the promised infrastructure to achieve the calls from everyone involved in seeing a cleaner world become reality. To do this we have to talk to each other and not just plan for local initiatives but look at the UK infrastructure as a whole.

The CILT has been calling for a review of both funding and the way the freight and transport sectors operate. Kevin Richardson thinks this is an ideal opportunity to take this further.

“The logistics world continues to operate and deliver for the UK economy and this is probably why decision-makers fail to take more notice of it. The whole sector is changing because of technology but more change is coming and this report should be seen as a call to arms to both the sector and the government. We understand the need for change. We recognise the areas that need development. This is the time to get together, discuss, plan, agree and move forward with a more integrated road and rail freight infrastructure that will benefit everyone.”