Can UK infrastructure accommodate the growth of the logistics sector

Sector achieves almost three-fold growth for the second quarter of the year

As confidence returns to UK’s logistics sector and growth prospects strengthen, can the infrastructure accommodate such growth?

It is reported that the logistics sector is now well placed to help the economy continue to grow and companies are looking to explore new sectors and services lines, so there is realisation of a need to adapt and continually improve.

Logistics in the UK experienced almost three-fold growth for the second quarter of the year – higher than any other country. Recovery of the economy, in addition to high retail demand, has allowed logistics such strong growth.

HS2 and London Airports are grabbing news headlines but there are many other less publicised infrastructure projects in progress. Here is a brief summary of some announced over the last three months and which will influence the logistics sector.

2.1 million metres squared of developments began construction in this period, with a further seven million under development.The Government is committed to developing the UK’s energy and transport infrastructure with news that many new projects have passed the first barrier to Government funding.

Schemes worth £33bn are now at the stage known as prequalification, meaning that they are eligible for the UK Guarantee scheme. Not all will receive funding but it is a significant step in the development of British transport links and energy hubs.
Projects include a major extension to the Northern Line, taking it to Battersea, and the construction of the Mersey Gateway. "Getting our infrastructure right means we can be globally competitive, boost growth and create jobs across the UK," said Treasury Chief Secretary, Danny Alexander. The Mersey Gateway will link Runcorn and Widnes, easing congestion on the Silver Jubilee Bridge and creating jobs and investment in the region.

There are plans to electrify the rail line between Wrexham and Bidston. According to the Wales Office, the country is ready to benefit from near £2bn from the UK Government for modernising its rail systems. Other electrification programmes are in hand in the north of England, with Network Rail investing £160m in the route between Manchester and Liverpool. This is part of the Northern Hub project by Network Rail with funding from the Department for Transport.

Transport for London (TfL) has appointed a contractor to lengthen platforms on various overground stations. These will support bigger trains, which will have five carriages instead of four. This is part of the wider London Overground Capacity Improvement Programme, costing £320m.

Network Rail is investing £15m to upgrade the infrastructure of the East Coast Main Line.
Thameslink will join local and regional services and Network Rail has announced the first stage to connect rail tunnels with the national network. The scheme will connect canal tunnels between St Pancreas Station and the East Coast Main Line near King’s Cross. Trains using the canal tunnels will provide up to eight of the potential 24 services each hour. These will travel via central London when the £6bn Thameslink Programme reaches completion in 2018.

Network Rail has started on a new signalling centre, one of 12 being built across the UK, replacing 800 signal boxes and older facilities. Network Rail predicts a saving of £2.5bn over 60 years. They have also announced a new track to help move freight from road to rail, with direct links to the Port of Felixstowe. The development is expected to encourage 750,000 lorry trips off the road each year by 2030, helping to reduce both congestion and carbon emissions as a result.

DfT has outlined Lake District electrification plans for a ten mile stretch of track between Oxenholme station on the West Coast Main Line and Windermere station, costing £16m.

Southern Railway has awarded Bombardier Transportation a spares supply contract, to support new trains. They will supply 116 new cars with the option to order 140 more.

The East coast line is to receive £15m to upgrade its infrastructure.
The first of Crossrail’s tunnels has been constructed, 40 metres below the ground in Stepney Green. The company says the project and its supply chain will create 75,000 business opportunities and support 55,000 full time jobs across the UK.

The total amount of funding being made available for Crossrail is £14.8bn. Woolwich station will be included in the final route and £1bn is being spent on transforming the station.
Manchester Victoria station is undergoing transformation with a £44m facelift.
Network rail are proposing to upgrade 13 stations.

London River Services (LRS) has appointed a firm of consultants to improve capacity at three piers in central London. Transport for London wants to increase passenger volumes on the river.

The EU is embarking on a new transport infrastructure. €26bn will be available for transport to complement national investments for developing the TEN-T (The Trans-European Transport Network Executive Agency).

The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) is investing £650m in Manchester Airport and steel piling has started at the site of Liverpool2, marking the start of a new phase of the deep water terminal’s construction.

A £150m logistics park in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, has been approved.

The Government has stressed that it was not starving the existing transport network in order to feed bigger projects and has already committed £9.2bn to local councils to fix issues such as potholes, problem roundabouts and slip-roads.The chancellor has agreed a long-term settlement for transport investment of more than £70bn, including tripling the budget for major road schemes.

The DfT said it would make a further £80m available to tackle road congestion. This is on top of the £190m already allocated. £25m of this new money has been allocated to 15 schemes in England, with £55m on offer to local councils to bid for before the end of October.

A 22-mile £1.5bn upgrade of the A14 between Cambridge and Huntingdon has been unveiled by the Highways Agency. £7.2m is to be spent on Cumbrian road upgrades. This is the final instalment of Government funding and to date £18m has been spent on road improvements in Cumbria.

A £40m upgrade for bus links in East Lancashire has been announced. The Department for Transport will provide £31.9m.

The Government has pledged £165m towards Manchester Airport relief road between the M56 and A6 at Hazel Grove. Construction of the £230m scheme is scheduled to start in January 2015