Back to News

The cost of bottlenecks: major report shows over 50,000 HGV hours a day lost needlessly to traffic

  • A Strategic Freight Network for the UK identified in new report
  • Extent of gridlock on our road and rail key freight arteries exposed
  • Focus on just 2.4% of the road network and 7 out of 1,000 main rail junctions would unlock over 50,000 hours every day, and plough an extra £14.2bn of value into our economy
  • UK Major Ports Group calls for action to ease congestion as Brexit looms

The true scale and cost of bottlenecks in Britain’s freight network has been laid bare in a report commissioned by the UK Major Ports Group (“UKMPG”). The report for the first time identifies the strategic freight network responsible for keeping the UK’s goods moving and the substantial value from making improvements to this network.

The report finds that congestion on key routes and locations in the country obstructs the UK economy, amounting to 50,000 HGV hours wasted every day (19 million per annum) and 3 million tonnes of rail freight restricted annually, costing an estimated £539 million every year.

Prioritising improvement on just 2.4% of England’s road network and key routes in Scotland and Wales, together with just 7 out of around 1,000 major junctions on the rail network would transform our freight network and unlock value to the UK economy which far outstrip the cost of investment. The report, which was developed by specialist research company MDS Transmodal, found that a total of £14.2bn billion could be unlocked over a 60-year period by taking a ‘freight-first’ approach to:

  • Ensure that freight has a higher priority in UK transport planning and funding allocations;
  • Establish key capacity constraints on a cross transport mode basis;
  • Build in the benefits of trade through freight on a consistent basis in project appraisals;
  • Develop the business cases for investment in key bottlenecks taking into account the benefits and opportunities across transport modes.

With Brexit just around the corner, discussion has been rife about how effectively Britain can continue to trade and transport goods. Focusing on our strategic freight network and taking a ‘freight-first’ approach would be a common-sense first step to ensure the country is as prepared for future trading as we possibly can be.

Tim Morris, of the UK Major Ports Group, said: “We have long suspected the significant impact that congestion in our freight network has on UK productivity, but this report exposes the major extent of this. And the potential identified is just in terms of freight industry value – the value to manufacturers, retailers and other industries for their own businesses will add substantial to this benefit. We need a new ‘freight first’ approach to ensure that Britain can live up to its true potential.”

“Leaking money because of avoidable congestion is an own goal. As this report shows, some smart, targeted prioritisation can exponentially improve our freight network as this crucial moment for our country.’

The UK Major Ports Group is the trade association representing most of the larger commercial ports in the United Kingdom. It has nine members, who own and operate over 40 ports, accounting for 75% of the total tonnage handled in UK ports.

MDS Transmodal (MDST) provides specialist research, consultancy and information services to the world’s transport industry. The company also and operates the Great Britain Freight Model (GBFM) which has produced freight transport forecasts for the Department for Transport, Network Rail and the Rail Freight Group, among others.