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Transport plans misdirected

Transport plans misdirected
Latest £1 bn in 'misdirected' UK transport projects fail the North and perpetuate failed model.

PD Ports say Government transport plans are mis-directed

Latest £1 bn in 'misdirected' UK transport projects fail the North and perpetuate failed model.

The UK"s Transport Secretary, Geoff Hoon, recently (25/11) confirmed that the UK Government plans to inject an extra £1 billion into major transport projects next year. According to the Department for Transport (DfT) statement, the investment is being made, ?In order to stimulate the economy by accelerating Government plans to cut congestion and significantly increase rail capacity.?

This extra £1 billion, to be spent on road and rail schemes, is in addition to the overall £10 billion for 2009-2014 already pledged by the Min is ter in July 2007 to increase rail capacity. Other major long term rail projects include the massive London Crossrail scheme, the £5.5 bn Thameslink programme and an additional £600 m to tackle congestion.

Major transport schemes highlighted in this most recent DfT statement, include the enhancement of rail freight routes through London. Th is includes £54 million just for the North London route improvement. Other monies already allocated in Oct. 2007 to rail freight projects included TIF (Transport Innovation Fund) monies (£132.5m) for Peter borough to Nuneaton (£80m) and Southampton to West Midlands (£43m) rail gauge enhancement to cope with modern taller containers on standard height rail wagons.

While this is more welcome news for southern transport projects, which will continue to receive the lion"s share of new rail funds, there is a rapidly growing consensus in the rest of the country that further expenditure in southern UK infrastructure is a failed model. It makes no provisions for tackling the identified problems of the UK"s north - south economic performance divide.

Investment in the future and not the past

?The UK Government needs to invest in the future and not the past,? stated Martyn Pellew, Group Development Director for PD Ports. ?This latest injection of cash for road and rail projects into the already congested south will do very little to improve anything, it"s just a perpetuation of pre-existing problems. Over 3-years ago the Government"s Northern Way initiative identified a £32bn shortfall in the economic performance of the North of England. If the UK Government really wants to help our economy in th is financial crisis and also meet the long term environmental targets that have been laid out in the recent Climate Change, Energy and Planning Bills, then the UK Government clearly needs a new direction for a sustainable future? added Pellew. ?Despite the obvious benefits of moving freight by rail, so far there is still considerable misdirection in the way the UK Government treats and funds its rail network.?

As the recent DfT news indicates, a significant amount of funding has gone into rail access to the country"s southern ports for increased freight shipment particularly to cope with the newer 1 foot higher containers bringing more and more product to UK consumers from the Far East, but as Pellew argues, ?This latest investment will only continue the trend for shipping lines to add increasing cargo volumes on to the overcrowded southern UK infrastructure. It"s an investment that will work against itself.?

The UK needs to invest in its Victorian-era rail network

Pellew adds, ?The fact that Britain is an island with a history of maritime trade and excellent ports around our entire coast, plus the fact that the North has less road and rail congestion, is an incredible asset with some of the best potential for increasing inward investment to the UK and for reviving our economic development. The right mixture of good access to the sea, available brown field land and an eager work force exists in the North East. It"s clear to see that there is significant economic potential for the UK here. What"s missing is a supportive rail infrastructure ? especially in the form of rail access for trains and wagons capable of carrying the modern high cube imported containers.?
Northern UK ports employers, the rail community and major retailers have been collectively calling on the UK Government to invest strategically on the rail infrastructure of the North and North East. ?The UK needs to invest in its Victorian-era rail network and shed its prejudices toward everything good being in and around the south east. We need new ways of thinking if we are to realise that there is a vital latent economic power that exists in the North East,? suggested Pellew, and major retailers seem to agree.

?The country needs to develop more sustainable transport methods and there is a need to change traditional thinking. The UK Government cannot continue to neglect of the North East and the ECML any longer, as this area clearly represents the most logical place for change to begin. A meagre £100 million investment into this vital rail line will have a major and direct impact for all UK business in terms of reducing cost, carbon emissions and congestion. Investment in the ECML now represents an opportunity for the UK Government to act with responsible and decisive vision? stressed Pellew.


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