A major study into freight and logistics in and around the Oxford to Cambridge Arc has identified a number of priorities for the region, including improving strategic road access, maximising the use of rail freight, and encouraging investment in greener technology.
The study by England's Economic Heartland (EEH), was unveiled at its annual conference in Hertfordshire yesterday (July 16), and will be a major input into its overarching Transport Strategy.
The work - informed by engagement with policy makers, major businesses, infrastructure operators and logistics companies - provides an assessment of the region's freight needs and the implications of future demands and trends up to 2050.
Mayor Dave Hodgson, chair of EEH's Strategic Transport Forum – which includes elected leaders and cabinet members from authorities across the region - said: "If the region is to realise its economic potential in a way which improves the environment and people's quality of life, then the freight and logistics sector is going to be key. This important study has identified a number of practical measures which England's Economic Heartland – with its partners – can now look to deliver.
"This includes exploiting opportunities within the sector to move more freight – such as construction materials – by rail, and also how we can make the region a testbed for trialling cutting-edge technologies which will make the sector greener. There is a need to look at how we improve access for heavy vehicles onto suitable roads through the provision of new infrastructure. And, for example, we need to look at how hauliers can access better navigation information to reduce the impact of HGVs on unsuitable roads.
"The study has already received keen interest nationally - the National Infrastructure Commission has endorsed it as an excellent step forward in planning for freight, while the Department for Transport has asked us to discuss its findings, potentially influencing national policy thinking."
Priorities to be taken forward by EEH and its partners also include:
- Working with local partners to integrate freight needs into planning and decision making: to develop a minimum standard approach to including freight needs in corridor studies and new developments through construction management plans, delivery and servicing plans and other considerations
- Maximising the use of rail freight: working with Network Rail and adjoining Sub-national Transport Bodies to develop a corridor approach to planning and delivering additional capacity, capability and route availability along key rail routes
- Improving strategic road access: working with partners to improve end to end journey times for goods vehicles whilst reducing the impact of hauliers using inappropriate routes
- Creating a freight and logistics data repository: building on EEH's Regional Evidence Base, identifying a programme of data collection to enable evidence-based decision making
- Developing an ongoing engagement plan: recognising the way freight policy is best delivered is when industry, government and stakeholders work together.
Also unveiled at the conference – held at the University of Hertfordshire - was EEH's Outline Transport Strategy. This launched a period of engagement on the transport needs of the region, which stretches from Swindon across to Cambridgeshire, and from Northamptonshire down to Hertfordshire.