Select Committee on the Crossrail Bill Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 8660 - 8679)

  8660. I will then conclude by listing a few concerns of the Petitioners and asking your Committee, based on the evidence which I hope we are going to hear today, to require the Promoters to give certain undertakings to Parliament.

  8661. That is the end of my introduction, my Lord Chairman. I would be pleased now to call my first witness, James Hookham of the Freight Transport Association. Could we see Slide 1, please.[2]


  8662. LORD BERKELEY: Mr Hookham, can you please first explain who are the FTA, what do they represent and your position and experience within the organisation?

   (Mr Hookham) The Freight Transport Association is one of Britain's biggest and longest established trade associations. We have 14,000 businesses in membership, all of them with an interest in the safe, efficient and sustainable movement of freight using all the modes of transport. FTA members include, importantly, users and prospective users of rail freight. Our members include the major retailers, the construction sector, oil and chemicals companies, manufacturers in the food consumer goods and industrial sectors, as well as the carriers and logistics providers of freight in road, rail, sea and air sectors. Our members' primary concern is the efficient movement of goods through supply chains from points of origin to final consumption. In the rail freight sector, our members consign over 90 per cent of the freight moved by rail, and include the rail freight operating companies, logistics intermediaries and, as I have said, importantly existing and prospective users of rail freight. My name is James Hookham, and I have held the position of Policy Director for the FTA for over ten years.

  8663. If we turn to slide 2 can you please give the Committee an overview of the importance of freight traffic to the UK, particularly imports through our major ports?[3]

  (Mr Hookham) Slide 2 shows forecast growth in imports by sea into the UK over the next ten years up to about 2015. These data have been generated from the GB Freights model developed by MDS Transmodal that Mr Garratt will be explaining later in our evidence. This slide shows three marked changes in import behaviour which we are expecting over this time period. There will be a continued reliance on: imported coal for electricity generation that is expected to be berthed at the Humber Ports, particularly Immingham; increases in cross-channel traffic resulting in growth of ferry services through Dover, and over the Dover Straits; and, a particular concern today, significant increases through the container ports, particularly of Felixstowe, Southampton and the London ports in the Thames Estuary. A marked trend in the past 15 years or so of the UK economy has been an outsourcing of manufacturing from the UK to other parts of the world.

  8664. LORD JAMES OF BLACKHEATH: Could you just tell us, is this graph supposed to be showing us tonnage, or is it units of freight?

   (Mr Hookham) My Lord, this is tonnage through the ports. As you have asked me, perhaps I should explain that there are three bars for each port; the first shows the tonnage in 2005, the second in 2010 and the third in 2015.

  8665. LORD BERKELEY: It also demonstrates just how heavy coal is compared with containers too.

   (Mr Hookham) I think it is important to understand the context in which we are discussing this. Growth in important consumer goods, predominantly in containers, is a result of this significant outsourcing of manufacturing capacity to other parts of the world. The reason for that is to take advantage of cheaper labour and production costs. As a result, those consumer goods have fallen in real terms. That has made them more affordable to UK consumers; and the net effect is to see significant growth in the imports of these products back into the country.

  8666. LORD JAMES OF BLACKHEATH: Mr Hookham, it would be very helpful if you just take one small example of either, say, Plymouth or Poole, and tell us what actual tonnage that represents so that we have got some sort of measurement in our minds of what the other bigger items would indicate.

  8667. LORD BERKELEY: Poole is a very difficult one; it is so small, is it not?

  8668. LORD JAMES OF BLACKHEATH: Pick any one you know of—your choice. We just want something on which to hang an understanding of this.

  8669. LORD BERKELEY: If it would be helpful, the best one is probably to take the Haven Ports one which we will be discussing. One of my forthcoming witnesses, Andrew Cann, has actually got all those figures. I think, Mr Hookham, this is designed to show a comparison and it is a very small scale. Mr Cann can definitely answer these questions.

  8670. LORD JAMES OF BLACKHEATH: It would be helpful to have it.

  8671. LORD BERKELEY: Mr Hookham, could we possibly move on to slide 3.[4] Could you explain how important this container traffic is to the future of our economy? Is it related to any permissions that the Government has given for new port capacity for container traffic?

  (Mr Hookham) This trend in growth of imported consumer goods is hardwired now into the British economy. Notwithstanding any current uncertainties in financial markets and economic growth, all planning assumptions made by Government and businesses expect this trend to continue and, indeed, to grow. The granting of permissions for developments at ports that Lord Berkeley has mentioned we take to be evidence that the Government accepts these trends and, indeed, the forecast generated by the GB Freight model.

  8672. Mr Hookham, I did not actually mention any ports. Could you mention the ports?

   (Mr Hookham) By all means. The key ports at which these container goods are landed are at Felixstowe on the east coast, at Southampton, and at the London ports, some of which are under development and expected to come on-stream during the time horizon we are discussing.

  8673. Finally, Lord James has asked a question about tonnages, and I know other noble Lords will probably ask questions about the difference between different types of boxes, because I think there is a difference between a deep-sea box and a box coming across from the Continent and any other type of box. I think it is important that we establish that before we get any further.

   (Mr Hookham) I hope that these graphs and representations are adequately demonstrating the trends and economic context in which the latter cases pertaining particularly to Crossrail will be developed. I think there are some important changes which I should stress. There are other routes by which freight does enter into the country—these are shown in the graph. A lot of freight enters into the country in unitised form over the Dover Straits, either by ferry or through the Channel Tunnel. Some of this traffic is deep-sea containers unloaded on the Continent and transhipped into the UK by road or by rail. You can see the dramatic growth expected through the Port of Dover and through the Channel Tunnel terminals at Folkestone, compared to the other ferry ports. A lot of this traffic is also swap-body traffic. A swap-body looks very similar to an inter-modal container but its most important feature is that it cannot be stacked. This makes it unsuitable for carriage by container but ideally suited to carriage and transfer between road and rail modes.

  8674. It has got floppy sides effectively, or it could have?

   (Mr Hookham) Indeed, which allows for unloading from the side, which is an important feature of most freight terminals, rather than unloading through the rear doors. Just one other important trend which does pertain to the Crossrail issues, is that there has been an increase in the design height of containers from originally eight foot six to nine foot six. This may seem a small, almost insignificant change in dimension but, nevertheless, is real and is a result of the desire to carry higher volume goods; but these greater heights do limit the rail routes along which these bigger containers can be moved due to loading gauge restrictions. Our estimate is that by about 2012 almost half of the deep-sea containers arriving in the UK are expected to be at this higher height. It is the lack of adequate route capacity for these bigger containers that requires, for example, these bigger containers being landed at Felixstowe to have to travel via London in order to access the Midlands and the north of the country.

  8675. Finally, what is the importance of rail freight as opposed to road freight, or any other type of freight, to your members?

   (Mr Hookham) As I have explained, many FTA members are either existing users of rail or, importantly, prospective users of rail. They represent the markets that rail freight aims to win in the future. They see rail freight as an important means of reducing supply chain costs, and certainly in the emerging debates about how to reduce carbon dioxide emissions compared to road transport. Rail freight, however, does compete for space on the rail network with a fast-growing passenger railway, and that is the debate we are having today. Existing and prospective users of rail freight need to be assured by Government that freight services will continue to enjoy guaranteed access rights to the network so that their decisions to make investments and to switch modes of transport are secure. The risk of these rights being withdrawn will weaken the confidence and jeopardise the Government's own targets for modal shift.

  8676. LORD BERKELEY: Thank you very much, Mr Hookham, that is all I have to ask.

Cross-examined by MR ELVIN

  8677. MR ELVIN: Mr Hookham, you will appreciate, representing as I do the Secretary of State for Transport, that there is no issue between us over the importance of rail freight and making appropriate provision for growth in rail freight; and that of course is an objective of Government, as is Crossrail. May I just ask you a few questions of clarification. Your slides show in the three bars effectively growth in freight, particularly from the ports, over three periods leading up to 2015. Mr Garratt presented a report to the ORR, and indeed there is a report before this Committee, dealing with growth. Are your figures consistent with his?

   (Mr Hookham) Indeed they are.

  8678. So they are figures that were available to and taken into account by the Rail Regulator when reaching a decision on the Crossrail Access Option?

   (Mr Hookham) I must presume so.

  8679. Looking at the list of appearances, your organisation did not appear at the hearing that was held by the ORR in February?

   (Mr Hookham) I believe we were represented.

2   Committee Ref: A52, Freight Transport Association (LINEWD-34_05-002) Back

3   Committee Ref: A52, The main growth will be in deep sea container ports, and strong growth in traffic through Humber and Dover (LINEWD-34_05-003) Back

4   Committee Ref: A52, Growth of container traffic focused on Felixstowe, Southampton and London (LINEWD-34_05-004) Back

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