COMMONS

Access to ports report published

26 November 2013

The Department for Transport (DfT) must become a keener advocate for UK ports, urges the Transport Committee, in a new report looking at policy for improving road and rail access to ports.

Launching the report, Louise Ellman, Chair of Transport Committee, said today,

"The Department has brought forward a new high-level strategy on ports, but ministers must now provide more detail about how it will be implemented to prioritise the removal of constraints to port development caused by inadequate transport infrastructure.

Transport links – especially roads and rail – are crucial to the economic prosperity of our major ports. But significant changes made to the role of local government in strategic transport planning since 2010 have made it harder for UK ports to ensure that projects of strategic importance enjoy the kind of priority they deserve. 

Local bottlenecks remain a key concern to many ports. Ministers must challenge decisions by local bodies where they fail to prioritise improvements in port access over other, less strategically important, schemes. 

While clear in principle, Government policy on who should pay for major new transport infrastructure serving our ports remains conceptually flawed and is applied inconsistently across the country.

Ministers must also clarify whether or not the Government intends to bring forward a National Policy Statement on National Networks and its timetable for doing so."

Conclusions

The Committee concludes:

  • Government should contribute to significant improvements to strategic networks which also deliver wider benefits - rather than simply expect port operators to pick up the entire bill for measures required to mitigate increased traffic due to port expansion. If the Government chooses to apply European Commission state aid rules in this area more strictly than other EU countries it should explain why it does so.
  • Policy in this area should be applied consistently across the country. While some ports have contributed towards transport schemes to improve access, others have not and the differences in approach have not been explained or justified.
  • Ports should also continue to contribute to local transport infrastructure improvements, following discussions with relevant local bodies.
  • The Department for Transport should demonstrate whether port master plans have had any impact, highlighting good examples of such plans and of how they have influenced decision makers.
  • The Government should devise a more effective successor to the Waterborne Freight Grant, to stimulate coastal shipping.

Further information

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