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Government must commit to investment in rail freight connections to ports

Better connections between English ports could boost the nation’s economy, a new study has shown.

The study of England’s port connectivity found that improved rail links could provide more effective freight journeys between key economic areas and ports, which would in turn boost productivity, provide lower costs and give access to international markets.

Britain’s ports contribute £5.4bn to the economy and extensive government investment is already improving port access, with £235m invested between 2014 and 2019 to improve rail links.

Shipping minister Nusrat Ghani explained that better links would boost imports as well as supporting British companies that export products across the globe.

Alec Don, chair of the British Ports Association said that he was “delighted” that the government has recognised the importance of port connectivity.

“We hope the government will build on this good work, and future infrastructure and investment planning prioritises the free and efficient movement of freight,” he added.

The report offers a series of recommendations for the government, which it is hoped will deliver an ambitious vision for the long term future of port connectivity.

Chair of the UK Major Ports Group, James Cooper, explained that in order to maximise the value of investment in UK ports, they must be well connected to the rest of the country.

Phillippa Edmunds, freight on rail manager at Campaign for Better Transport, welcomed the report, but called on the government to commit to funding.

“This study acknowledges that upgrading the rail freight connections to our ports is critical to providing sustainable efficient freight distribution and identifies key routes which need enhancing.

“This study is all very well, but we now need action the government needs to get on and commit funding to these projects to make them happen,” she said.

Citing research commissioned by Campaign for Better Transport, sponsored by the Department for Transport, she argued that by upgrading the rail routes out of the two largest container ports, Southampton and Felixstowe, 2,000 large HGVs could be removed from the roads each day.

“Targeted rail freight investments work; within a year of the completion of the gauge upgrades on the A34 route out of Southampton, rail’s share of the market increased from 29% to 36%, showing that there is considerable suppressed demand for more rail freight services,” she added.


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