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| 1 minute read

Your order for a “proper plan for freight” has been delivered

The DfT’s ‘Future of Freight’ plan, published at the start of summer this year, responds constructively to most of the National Infrastructure Commission’s (NIC’s) original recommendations and sets out a positive, collaborative vision for the long-term future of freight.

I am proud to have been part of the NIC team that delivered the original study, and so I’m pleased to see the DfT’s plan take almost all our recommendations to heart – especially those which I worked on directly (‘my’ recommendations!), on how the planning system works (or, more accurately, sometimes doesn’t work) for freight.

When I looked into how the planning system interacts with and accounts for freight back in 2018, I found evidence of what we called “freight blindness” in our interim report: a planning system (planners, policies, and decision-making tools) that did not understand and therefore did not value the needs and value of the UK’s freight system. It became something of a game when drafting content for our reports to try and think of different ways of saying “Our freight system is really important, but we don’t value it enough.” I still enjoy (don’t say transport planners don’t know how to have fun) looking out for what others have chosen to go with now – the Ministerial foreword in the DfT plan says: “The scale of our freight and logistics sector is breathtaking…Yet, given much of this is done behind the scenes, we can take the intricacies, organisation, and expertise, that define this sector, for granted.”

The ‘goal’ expressed in the Future of Freight plan in terms of better planning for freight is essentially that the planning system evolves to recognise the need and value of freight. The associated actions aren’t big bang announcements that’ll set your heart racing (“Government and industry will…Review and amend Planning Practice Guidance”), but they are routes to exactly what’s needed – enhanced understanding between the freight and planning systems about how and why the other works, and a normalisation of sound, informed planning for goods movement.

I look forward to seeing these actions taken forward on the national, sub-national, and local scales and hope that I can play my own part in them. In the meantime, if you see any good “freight is great, if only we noticed” lines, please let me know!


freight & logistics