Thinking big and multimodal

Thinking big and multimodal

Director- UK Policy | Freight Transport Association

I joined FTA, the organisation that speaks on behalf of the logistics industry, in July 2017 as its Director of Policy. FTA has a strong team of 15 expert policy managers who are specialised in policy areas such as environment, urban issues as well as each region and each mode. All our polices are grounded in real-world advice, with more than 350 members attending our Council meetings each quarter. This supports our offer to government to help it land its policies in the best possible way with fewest unintended consequences for UK plc. Since I joined we have been building on this strong base and looking to the future.  

FTA has always been multimodal, but we have strengthened our focus here. New modes are being developed, such as ecargo bikes and drones, and we are here to support safe and efficient logistics across the whole supply chain, from end to end.  You will see a more multimodal approach in our campaigning work, as well as in our consultation responses. For instance, we have recently submitted a guide to taxes and charges across the modes to the Treasury to help it think about the impact its approach to one mode has on others.  

Another multimodal campaign we have been developing is ‘Big Can Be Better’. The principle behind this is similar to a poster the (now former) Transport Minister, Jesse Norman, has on his office wall, showing the amount of road space a bus takes up compared to all the passengers being in cars. Jesse is a huge fan of ecargo bikes and the Call for Evidence on the Future of Urban Mobility was predominantly about this mode of transport. Despite our pleas for all modes to be considered in the strategy, we were shocked to find that HGVs had been all but ignored when it was published. Our press release made the point directly that “two and a half million tonnes of goods a day don’t appear in Britain’s towns and cities by magic.”

We have developed three infographics under our Big Can be Better strapline. To be clear, we are not saying big will always be better but that larger modes should be considered as an important part of an end to end supply chain. FTA represents freight across all modes, from tankers to tricycles, so rather than favouring one mode over another, we want each mode to able to be used to its optimal potential. 

One of our infographics shows that a medium lorry can carry 10,000 kg while a van can carry only 1,000kg and an eCargo bike can carry just 100kg; so, one lorry is equal to 100 eCargo bikes. There are similar benefits for rail over road freight. One freight train could remove 4,500 lorry miles from the road network and one freight train can remove 70 lorries from the road. Each tonne of freight can reduce carbon emissions by 76 per cent when moved by rail rather than road. 

Our third infographic in the series focuses on longer, heavier road vehicles. Over the past six years having 0.5 per cent of UK HGVs 12 per cent longer has saved 28,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions and meant 270,000 fewer HGV journeys on the road, 70 per cent fewer collisions and 32.9 million km saved. There is the potential for tension here between road and rail operators, but FTA takes a broader view across the supply chain and our Rail and Road Councils have come to a joint approach. Decisions about the future of these vehicles must include their impact on current and future rail and water markets, as well as whether it is right to limit their potential use to multimodal movements. There are differences in opinion, but by understanding the good reasons for these differences we can help government to make the best possible decisions for the whole of the industry.

For more information, visit: