UK international connectivity

Improving the UK’s transport infrastructure, by reducing congestion and unreliability

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Improving the UK’s transport infrastructure, by reducing congestion and unreliability, enhancing access to all modes of transport and ensuring that we can trade with the rest of Europe and the world without delays and other burdens being imposed is essential for our economic future.

Air cargo

About 40 per cent of UK imports and exports by value are dependent on air freight and the wide range of services provided by Heathrow to access our overseas markets. Air freight to long-haul destinations is mainly carried in cargo holds of passenger aircraft flying in and out of Heathrow Airport. Air freight has stalled in the UK for many years due to limited capacity. The third runway planned for Heathrow will unlock demand and enable more long-distance trade with more trading partners, a vital requirement because of Brexit.

FTA is campaigning for:

  • a third runway at Heathrow
  • protection of early-morning arrivals into Heathrow, which carry crucial cargo items required for the same working day

Deep sea cargo and short sea shipping

The container shipping market is undergoing profound change. A significant element of this being the development of the ‘mega-ship’. Fewer, larger ships can operate in a market of a given size and the risk is that smaller, standalone operators will be driven out of the main trades. This risks reducing supply chain efficiency, with reduced competitive pressure on issues such as capacity, sailing frequency, transit times, ports of call and service quality.

UK ports will need to be placed to compete with Rotterdam, Hamburg and Antwerp to accommodate the newest generations of mega-vessels and to ensure that they continue to stop there, rather than goods being trans-shipped to smaller vessels in EU ports for slower, and more expensive, onward passage to the UK.

Short-sea shipping is a highly effective part of the UK supply chain, bringing benefits through reducing road miles.  Either through longer distance connections to the continent or coastal shipping between British ports, it can bring goods closer to their destination before they begin their road journey. This aids safety, emissions and road congestion issues.

FTA is campaigning for:

  • deep sea competition and service level issues to be addressed (through the Global Shippers’ Forum)
  • investment in rail and road links to/from ports, around the UK
  • mode shift revenue support to be available for coastal shipping services in the same fashion as rail
  • planning and grant support for port developments where needed

Channel Tunnel and Port of Dover

The Port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel form the UK’s gateway to Europe; together, they currently handle nearly 4 million freight vehicles a year (most of which are HGVs), the equivalent of more than 10,000 a day. All this traffic needs to pass through Kent.

The effect of cross-Channel disruption – because of strike action or the weather – can act as a significant restraint on UK trade and supply chains. When lorries are unable to cross the Channel, Operation Stack is put in place. This is a queuing system on the M20 motorway which means that this key road is then shut to non-international lorry traffic. The delays caused by cross-Channel disruption result in local traffic and business impacts, as well as impeding the movement of goods.

FTA is campaigning for:

  • a long-term, sustainable alternative to Operation Stack that minimises supply chain dislocation and mitigates the impact on local traffic
  • a frictionless solution to customs and trade post-Brexit to minimise delays

Find out more

FTA Air Freight Policy

Air Freight Working Group

Heathrow Third Runway: FTA response

Contact Alex Veitch, Head of Global Policy at FTA. 

External links

Department for Transport - Heathrow Airport expansion

Heathrow Airport website

Global Shippers’ Forum