A view from the Chair of the Merseytravel Committee – Freight study shines a light on our City Region’s potential
While 90 per cent of deep sea container traffic goes through southern ports, 60 per cent of the UK container market is actually closer to Liverpool than the south. From this statistic alone it’s clear that there’s an imbalance in resource, investment and infrastructure in freight and logistics north and south– an imbalance that arguably is preventing the whole of the UK reaching its economic potential. This is companies losing time and money from container lorries being held up in motorway queues while making the journey up north and a mismatch between the ambitions of ports and the connections that serve them.
A Northern Freight and Logistics report by Transport for the North, led by Merseytavel, has just been published. It will form part of its Northern Transport Strategy which sets out a blueprint for how the North of England can become the location of choice for the freight sector in the UK; creating jobs, attracting investment, and supporting economic growth. It demonstrates how public sector investment in rail, road and waterway improvements, coupled with private sector investment in new infrastructure and services, could achieve almost £55bn of benefits to the economy, as well as up to 38,000 additional jobs for the North of England.
The proposals, which TfN will now look to deliver, include the development of distribution parks with rail and water links to limit road freight. Potential sites in our City Region include Seaforth, Knowsley and Parkside.
Proposals also include rail upgrades for longer freight trains and additional freight paths – something that the Linking Liverpool campaign has been pushing for to help unlock the full potential of our ports. New rail connections east-west between Liverpool and Manchester, connecting onto the proposed HS2 network at Golborne, would free up freight capacity on the existing Chat Moss, Cheshire lines and West Coast Mainline.
The report also recommends the promotion of short sea shipping to bring cargo directly to Northern ports and road improvements to reduce congestion, most importantly along the M62 between Liverpool and Hull.
It’s fitting that our City Region has led this piece of work. We have long recognised the importance of the freight sector to our economic future. The Port of Liverpool is an important regional asset and the £300m investment in a new deep-sea berth, Liverpool2, is set to make the Port an asset of national importance. Its central location means that it can reach Scotland and the South with single day delivery and more than 65 per cent of the UK and Ireland live within a 150 mile radius of the city.
Importantly, the City Region’s commitment to growing this sector goes beyond transport infrastructure; our work with organisations such as Mersey Maritime and Northern Logistics Academy, which will open later in the year, means the city region is putting in place the building blocks necessary to ensure that our residents are skilled to make the most of the opportunities that growth in the freight sector can bring.
At Merseytravel we are now developing the City Region’s own Freight and Logistics Strategy, and we will continue to work with our partners, including Transport for the North and the Local Enterprise Partnership, to deliver the infrastructure and services necessary to ensure that this important sector can continue to thrive in our region, and that it can play its fullest role in creating jobs and providing employment and prosperity for everyone.