Network based systems

DfT to identify National Multimodal Freight Network

The Department for Transport (DfT) will identify a National Freight Network (NFN) across road, rail, sea, air, river and warehouse infrastructure, with the long-term aim of removing barriers to enable a seamless flow of freight across the country. .

In his new report Future of Freight: a long-term planthe DfT has set out five key areas where it plans to make changes to reflect the growing importance of the UK freight sector, with the NFN topping the list.

The NFN is a reaction to the challenge of what it describes as a “lack of visibility and understanding of the freight network as an intermodal system”, which results in a limited capacity for joint thinking for industry, government and the freight. end users.

He admits that investment in freight to date has been focused on the mode, rather than seeing it as a larger integrated system, which has led to disruption and inefficiencies in parts of the network. Modal investment has also sometimes resulted in goods being transported in less environmentally sustainable ways due to cost, speed and reliability considerations.

Lack of awareness of the value of end-to-end freight routes has also made it more difficult for vital warehousing and distribution centers and rail freight exchanges to navigate through local planning systems. The lack of a clear intermodal vision at the freight network system level reduces the visibility and awareness of freight operators and buyers of the full range of modal choices. This dearth of information means that the full range of infrastructure is not used optimally because users are unaware of alternative options.

However, with recent developments in technology and data, the DfT says it is now possible for the first time to try to develop a system-level view of the freight network. She says this opportunity should be seized for three reasons:

  • Strategically target policy, investment and planning decisions to maximize efficiency
  • Enable the best freight infrastructure decisions for the UK economy, locally, regionally and nationally
  • Make operational decisions that make maximum use of all existing infrastructure

To provide a system-level view of the NFN, the DfT says the visibility of freight infrastructure needs to be broadened.

The DfT also wants to see better UK infrastructure to support freight, which requires better consideration of freight and its support facilities at the start of infrastructure programs, including the location of warehousing, the well being, border controls and energy needs. He says this will require greater recognition of the importance of the freight network in public infrastructure policy and investment decisions based on a greater awareness of freight as an integrated and multimodal end-to-end network. bout which is an essential part of our Supply Chains.

He adds that these public investment decisions will need to be aligned and geared towards maximum synergy with private sector investment decisions in vital freight infrastructure such as ports, airports, rail terminals, warehousing, etc. .

The DfT will now build on government and industry work to date to understand and map freight flows, their value and criticality, as well as an initial view of key routes important to the freight network. It will be a complex process starting with developing more robust data and a strategic picture of the network before exploring how this could be consolidated into the NFN.

The DfT will also consider the need to build analytical capacity on freight analysis, modelling, forecasting and logistics operations across the NFN. This could possibly include data collection, the development of new tools and methodological explorations.

In addition to the creation of the NFN, the remaining key areas of the DfT for the future of freight are:

  • Forge a new, open and honest relationship with the industry to collectively assess its future energy and fuel needs through a Freight Energy Forum, supporting the entire industry in its transition to net zero by 2050
  • Undertake a call for planning evidence to explore opportunities for planning reform. Because freight must above all serve the interests of local authorities throughout the territory
  • Implementation of the “Logistics Generation” campaign to improve the sector’s image and raise awareness of the range of career opportunities in freight and logistics. In addition, the DfT will work with the sector to strengthen its supply of longer-term jobs and skills. He hopes to boost the image of the sector and raise awareness of the breadth of career opportunities in freight and logistics. In addition, it will work with the sector to develop a longer-term job and skills offer.
  • Connecting the sector to innovators through a dedicated £7m freight innovation fund to maximize the use of technology and data in freight and logistics

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