The Government must ensure that our road and rail infrastructure can sustain the physical movement of goods at the kind of levels that will be required to meet the needs of a rapidly growing population that prefers to do more and more of its shopping online, says UKWA’s CEO, Peter Ward.
When looking back on the events of 2016 there is, of course, one dominant issue: Brexit.
Clearly this summer’s momentous decision by the UK public will have serious global implications, bringing new challenges for British businesses and particularly for those within our industry.
Many of our members trade across Europe and have enjoyed the benefits of ‘logistics sans frontiers’ for 40 years, with goods entering and leaving our country freely and as new trade agreements are forged, it is vital that there is no return to red tape and complex customs regulations that prove burdensome and costly for UKWA members.
As usual the devil will be in the detail, and we will work hard on behalf of our members to ensure that those negotiating Britain’s exit fully understand the ramifications for our industry.
With British society in the midst of a period of rapid and wide-ranging change, many of the decisions taken at Westminster in the months ahead will have a clear and lasting impact on the UK’s future logistics and transportation landscapes.
For example, the Government simply has to ensure that our road and rail infrastructure can sustain the physical movement of goods at the kind of levels that will be required to meet the needs of a rapidly growing population that prefers to do more and more of its shopping online. It was encouraging then that, in his Autumn Statement, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, demonstrated that he is clearly focused on delivering the infrastructure upgrades that are needed to support a productive economy.
Mr Hammond’s pledge to spend £23bn on innovation and infrastructure over five years and, in particular, his plan to commit £1.1bn extra investment in English local transport networks and £220m to reduce traffic pinch points, was particularly welcome news.
Investment on this scale is essential to support a logistics sector which is underpinning the rise of e-commerce. The e-fulfilment home-delivery model is already fraught with challenges – not the least of which are traffic congestion in urban areas and other practical issues such as a lack of parking space for ‘last mile’ delivery vehicles.
And, with a lack of suitable warehousing space already an issue for the logistics industry, it is hard to see how home deliveries and, indeed, the more frequent daily drop-offs required to replenish the growing number of town- and city-centre grocery retail stores that are opening as a result of current consumer shopping patterns, can be sustained.
The myriad issues that urban planners and the logistics sector must wrestle with as they strive to develop solutions to the city logistics challenges that lie ahead was one of the key themes at the 2016 UKWA Conference – which along with our Awards for Warehousing, was one of the highlights of UKWA’s year.
We live in a market economy that dictates that land for house building will be more valuable than industrial property space, but surely the time is fast approaching for some kind of Government intervention to set aside part of the public land given up for new housing schemes for use as storage space – to allow warehouses and distribution centres to be built where they will be able to serve our rapidly expanding communities?
The efficient operation of the logistics and supply chain sector has always been essential to the performance of the British economy and throughout 2017 UKWA will continue to seek to sway Government thinking by highlighting the central importance of our industry and the companies that operate within it, to the smooth running of ‘UK plc’.
By presenting strong and honest opinions with conclusions that are well founded and to the point we hope to ensure that the needs of the logistics industry are a key consideration when MPs debate the decisions that are likely to impact on our sector for many years to come.
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