31 January 2018

Road Haulage and Freight Transport Associations Take a Different Line on Kent HGV Congestion  

And Now Dover Considers a Congestion Charge for Lorries

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Shipping News Feature UK – The eyes of the Freight Transport Association (FTA) are currently firmly fixed on the county of Kent. This week the Road Haulage Association (RHA) was critical of the government spending around £3 million on renting space at Manston Airfield in case it was necessary to implement 'Operation Stack', in which lorries park up along the M20 motorway due to problems at the Channel Ports of Dover and Folkestone. The FTA has put a different view but also, at a meeting of the Dover District Council tonight, Councillor N A G Richards will ask:

“With increasing traffic on the Port Of Dover starting to impact the air quality and roads surrounding Dover, would the Portfolio Holder for Access and Licensing be willing to consider working with relevant partners to introduce a congestion charge for all HGVs using the port, in order to use the levy collected to combat these issues?”

Congestion charging is seen by many as an essential tool against pollution but there is an argument which says charging hauliers heading for ferry ports can have no influence whatsoever on the emissions they produce. Indeed taking an alternative ferry route is bound to mean extra mileage and therefore be even worse for the environment. Needless to say this idea has gone down rather badly with the FTA which numbers thousands of hauliers alongside the many other freight interests amongst its members. The Freight Transport Association’s Head of UK Policy, Christopher Snelling said:

“The Port of Dover is the UK’s closest connection to continental Europe and provides a vital trading link, not just for the south east of England, but for the UK as a whole. HGVs do not have an alternative route to use, so such a proposed charge is simply a tax on business and would ultimately hurt British trading relationships, as well as pushing up prices for goods and services.

“HGV operators have already made huge strides in reducing emissions, with the latest generation of trucks 90% cleaner than those sold just five years ago. These innovations are beginning to have an impact on air quality and it is wrong to place the blame for pollution levels solely at the feet (or wheels) of freight vehicles.

“It is worth noting that the tax paid by HGV operators is equivalent to the total budget for road maintenance of the entire UK road network. An additional tax of this type will not alleviate the air quality issues in and around the port of Dover, but will simply add more expense to an industry already bearing the cost of cleaning up the nation’s air, while compromising logistics operators’ ability to work efficiently and keep Britain’s businesses supplied with the goods they need.”

Turning to the Operation Stack situation, the FTA take a more conciliatory line than that favoured by the RHA. Mr Snelling continues:

“While the price of renting Manston Airport might appear high, the cost of failing to prepare for a possible closure of the Port of Dover would be far greater for the local community, and business as a whole across the country. When Operation Stack is implemented, the money lost by UK businesses runs into many millions of pounds, not to mention the cost to the Kent economy and massive disruption to local residents.

”Vital deliveries are delayed, fresh food rots in the back of trucks, tourists stay away from Kent and local residents are unable to go about their daily lives. Moving trucks into Manston while they wait for cross-Channel access, while not ideal, would relieve pressure on the local infrastructure and go some way to reduce this impact.

“The FTA would like to see a viable long-term solution to closures at Dover, which addresses the needs of the logistics industry and Kent residents, such as the proposed parking area near the village of Stanford. However, until such a solution is put in place, the cost of renting Manston is an insurance policy we cannot afford to lose.”

Photo: Dover District Council Offices.

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