The Institution of Mechanical Engineers is calling for the Government to urgently introduce a national multi-modal freight strategy in a move to ease traffic congestion, improve air quality and boost the economy.
Philippa Oldham, Head of Transport at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and Lead Author of the report, said: “The Government has taken a welcome step in creating the National Infrastructure Commission, but must now urgently look to create a national multi-modal freight strategy to incentivise optimum use of that infrastructure and better co-ordinate the transportation of goods around the UK.
“We currently have empty lorries on our roads, delivering shipping cargo to ports where demand for goods is on the other side of the country, and to wait for air cargo to undergo approval tests in other counties before being allowed to be processed through customs.
“Estimates suggest that congestion costs the UK economy £13bn per year, with poor air quality being responsible for about 29,000 premature deaths each year.
“A national strategy which looks at the entire range of transport methods used to deliver freight would have the potential to ease congestion, improve air quality and boost the economy ― as well as making travelling and commuting more agreeable for the public as a whole.”
According to the report ‘UK freight: in for the long haul’ up to 30% of all haulage vehicles on UK roads are empty and about 150 million miles are driven unnecessarily by lorry drivers. A national strategy could outline plans to make better use of urban consolidation centres, where joint local deliveries can be organised.
The report also points out to the need to better co-ordinate air cargo. Currently up to 400 tonnes of perishable goods arrive by aeroplane at Heathrow every morning, and many goods need to be tested in laboratories for quality before they can be processed through customs. Currently these samples are sent to Cambridge for testing, in a process that takes about 24 hours. Installing testing laboratories nearer to Heathrow, as they have done in Frankfurt airport, would reduce costs and speed up the process.
In the case of shipping, much could be done to improve co-ordination and efficiency. For example, at the moment 65% of the UK population lives within a 150-mile radius of Liverpool Port. However, 91% of our deep-sea goods enter or leave via either Southampton or Felixstowe. This is estimated to equate to 150 million wasted road miles, 200,000 additional truck journeys ― increasing road congestion ― and creates about 0.2 million tonnes of unnecessary CO 2 emissions from moving goods to where they are needed.