Crossing the border: road and rail links between England and Wales - Welsh Affairs Committee Contents


4  Freight and European transport networks

Cross-border freight

79.  The most recent figures show that 62 million tonnes of freight are moved annually between Wales and the rest of the UK, almost as much as is moved within Wales.[102] The Welsh Government estimates that freight contributes around £2.5 billion to the Welsh economy each year.[103] Transport by road remains the dominant mode for the movement of freight, but there has been an increase in the use of rail freight in recent years.[104]

WALES FREIGHT GROUP

80.  The Welsh Government published a Wales Freight Strategy in May 2008 outlining its aims and policies for the freight industry.[105] This was produced with the assistance of the Wales Freight Group, a body convened by the Welsh Government to provide a forum for discussion and deliver the freight strategy. The Group consists of freight industry representatives, Welsh Government officials, Network Rail, and users of freight services.

81.  Our predecessor Committee welcomed the Welsh Freight Strategy as "a good example of a co-ordinated strategy which is supported by the creation of a key stakeholder group"[106] [the Wales Freight Group]. However, the Freight Transport Association told us the Group had not met for two years, which meant it has failed to act as a forum to interact with the Welsh Government and other key stakeholders.[107] It wanted the Wales Freight Group to resume activity.[108] When questioned about why the Group had not convened for two years, the Welsh Government Minister told us:

[T]he freight group that was established probably was not delivering what it was really intended to do. It became a single focus group of local issues as opposed to a more strategic vision for delivery of freight across Wales.[109]

This was contrary to the evidence we received from freight industry representatives, who said that the Group was the main mechanism through which they interacted with the Welsh Government on freight issues.[110] The Welsh Government Minister told us that he intended to establish a new freight group with a more strategic focus to improve freight services in Wales.[111]

82.  We are disappointed that the Wales Freight Group has not met for two years. This has denied the freight industry a key mechanism to interact with the Welsh Government and other key stakeholders. We welcome the Welsh Government Minister's statement to us that he intended to re-establish the group and we are pleased to note that he has now convened a meeting of the Wales Freight Group.

Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T)

83.  The Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) was developed in the 1990s as an attempt to establish a comprehensive transport network throughout the EU. The EU expects to spend approximately 23 billion on TEN-T between 2014 and 2020: this will mainly be spent on the designated "core" transport projects and corridors that connect EU Member States.

84.  In 2011 the European Commission issued proposals for a revised TEN-T. These are now at an advanced stage in the EU legislative process: the Presidency aims to achieve a First Reading Agreement between the European Parliament and Member States during the first half of 2013. Cardiff and Newport are designated as "core" TEN-T ports under the proposals, because each handles more than 1% of the total volume of traffic that passes through all EU maritime ports. During the course of our inquiry, we heard that the European Commission had also agreed to include Milford Haven as a core port in the draft proposals, following joint working by the UK Government and Welsh Government.

85.  In November 2012, the Chief Executive of Milford Haven Port Authority confirmed to us that Milford Haven was on the European Commission's "draft list":

"We are particularly interested in the designation of Milford Haven as a TEN-T port. That should bring with it opportunities to strengthen the road network connecting all the way along the southern corridor as a key bridge into Ireland. That will require quite close co-operation between the Welsh Government and the UK Government to make that happen as a European designation, so they do need to work closely together."

86.  The European Union's proposals for a revised Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) provide an opportunity to secure funds for transport improvements in South Wales, as part of the "core network corridor" from Dublin to Paris and Brussels. We call on the UK and Welsh Governments to pursue all opportunities to secure EU funds for the improvement of transport infrastructure along the South Wales corridor to Milford Haven Port. The two governments should work closely with the Republic of Ireland, where appropriate, to secure EU funds for projects along this corridor which benefit both countries.

87.  The ports of Swansea, Fishguard and Holyhead are part of the broader "comprehensive" TEN-T network, because each handles more than 0.1% of the total EU maritime ports traffic. The Welsh Ports Group said that the significance of being on the comprehensive network was "uncertain". It has been suggested that Swansea and Neath Port Talbot could be combined as a single port in order to increase the chance of designation as a "core" port for future TEN-T reviews. The DfT told us that, currently, the two ports' combined traffic did not meet the Commission's threshold for a core port to handle 1% of all EU maritime ports traffic.[112]

88.  There are likely to be opportunities for increased freight traffic in the Swansea area, as a result of local steel operations and the redevelopment of Swansea University, as well as increased tourism. Combining Swansea and Neath Port Talbot as a single port will increase the chance of designation as a "core port" for future TEN-T reviews. The DfT should investigate the practicalities of Swansea and Neath Port Talbot being designated as a single port for future TEN-T reviews, and set out its view in the response to this Report.


102   Welsh Transport Statistics 2008, Welsh Government Back

103   The Wales Freight Strategy, Welsh Government, May 2008 Back

104   Ev 73 Back

105   The Wales Freight Strategy Back

106   Cross-border provision of public services for Wales: Transport, HC 58 Back

107   Q61 Back

108   Ev 73 Back

109   Q212 Back

110   Q61 Back

111   Q212 Back

112   Ev 88 Back


 
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Prepared 6 March 2013