Transport for Greater Manchester’s (TfGM) freight forum officially opened for business last week, drawing together public and private sector stakeholders to address the region’s logistics challenges.
Interim mayor Tony Lloyd said it was important to find a balance between making the city a more liveable place for a population likely to reach three million people by 2030, and ensuring the freight industry could perform its role efficiently.
“We can’t stifle economic growth and the prospects of this region by choking off some of the needs of the freight industry. It’s how we get the balance.
“This is very much the advantage of today’s forum. It’s an opportunity to talk through where we are and what your needs are, but how we can move on to a more sustainable future,” he told delegates at the launch event.
Helen Smith, head of logistics and environment at TfGM (pictured below), said the forum would help with the successful implementation of the 10-region authority’s freight and logistics strategy, approved this summer, which complements the wider Transport for the North freight strategy.
The strategy sets out five priority areas for Greater Manchester, with public sector interventions planned for areas such as safety regulation, clean air zones, delivery and servicing plans, engagement with retailers, consolidation models and better use of infrastructure and planning powers.
A key priority of the new strategy is better engagement with the freight industry to understand the challenges it faces, said Smith, acknowledging the dominant role that road haulage played in the delivery and servicing of urban areas.
“[For example] the freight industry is obviously a significant contributor to congestion and poor journey time reliability, but is equally just as much a victim of the same,” she added.
“Sometimes the only realistic response from industry is to put even more vehicles on the road to allow them to meet challenging delivery deadlines. The public sector is trying to do a lot to manage and improve this situation.
Public sector work includes improvements to signage and advanced SCOOT (split cycle offset optimisation technique) technology to improve traffic flow, as well as introduction of weigh-in-motion sites across the city.
“There is a great deal already happening, but this will be of limited benefit if we act in isolation,” Smith said.
“We need your input, your guidance and your support to help shape this so we get it right for all of us. The establishment of this forum is the first step towards doing this,” she added.
It is hoped that the forum will be recognised by key public sector stakeholders and provide a voice for the freight industry on any city-wide consultations or plans in the future, as well as being a collaborative forum for networking and sharing of best practice.
TfGM also wants Manchester to be a “test bed for new technologies” and bring innovative operations to the region’s freight movements to create a more sustainable city.
Also speaking at the event was FTA head of policy for the North of England Malcom Bingham who set out some of the key concerns facing the industry on a national level.
These include the growing HGV driver shortage, fuel prices, uncertainty over Brexit, the cost of congestion and anxiety surrounding devolution.
“Devolution of power has created worry across the industry,” Bingham said, some of which stem from operators’ experiences in London where certain areas of the industry face “enormous cost add-ons” to meet the differing demands of local authorities.
Manchester freight facts
Geoff Clarke, transport consultant at Aecom, presented the following statistics relating to the Greater Manchester freight sector