Government’s Future of Freight Plan sets direction for crucial sector in the East

The Department for Transport has published it’s Future of Freight Plan. The role of the Transport East region in the movement of goods both nationally and internationally is crucial to the success of businesses across the UK, which is why one of the priorities in our emerging Transport Strategy is ‘Unlocking Global Gateways’.

There is much to be commended within the Plan, but we are keen to understand the detail of these ambitions and are pushing for Government to use our evidence and relationships to speed up delivery. The DfT also needs to now use this evidence to inform funding decisions on the road and rail network. We will build on the commitments within the Plan to develop a regional Future of Freight Plan for the East, layering down the national approach to identify the most important priorities for our region.

Government Vision “A freight and logistics sector that is cost-efficient, reliable, resilient, environmentally sustainable and valued by society.”

Importance of freight in the East

The Government’s Future of Freight Plan recognises the role of East within the movement of goods around the country, highlighting Felixstowe, Thames ports and Stansted as important international connectors in the UK. The ports are particularly important to the heavily served shipping routes from China and the Far East. The Plan identifies the supply chain links between the East and the Golden Triangle of National Distribution Centres in the Midlands. Goods move through different modes of transports at different points in the distribution network – from ship, to HGV or train including refrigerated units, to HGV again, to van or cargo bike or your postie on foot. This is a highly-complex multi-modal network and almost entirely undertake by private businesses.

  • World trade volumes have grown 4100% between 1950 and 2020
  • The value of trade has ballooned by almost 300 times from 1950 levels
  • The freight and logistics sector is one of the largest economic sectors globally, worth $8.6 trillion in 2020
  • Imports and exports comprise 62.9% of UK GDP – higher than the global average


Challenges: Net zero and planning freight infrastructure

From a transport and planning perspective the Plan identifies two key challenges; decarbonising to net zero and land-use planning to support the freight and logistics sector. Sites that support freight activities like ports, lorry parks, refuelling stations and infrastructure, as well as distribution centres often require large amounts of land and need to be strategically located near transport links. They operate across local authority boundaries and use the local and national transport networks to move goods.

And as the way goods are moved changes to tackle carbon emissions, the type of infrastructure needed will have to change too. Industry, local authorities and infrastructure providers need a joined-up approach to plan effectively for a new freight future. We can help with this at a regional level, and it is something our Future of Freight Plan will investigate. Our deep-dive into Unlocking International Gateways was developed to provide a detailed evidence base for our Transport Strategy. It identifies similar issues to the DfT’s work and provides strong insight in this area already.

“We call on the DfT to work with us and other STBs to progress the commitment to a National Freight Network, the rapid transition to net zero and improving freight infrastructure”

Andrew Summers, Strategic Director

The Government’s Future of Freight Plan commits to several actions to support the sector:

  • Identifying a National Freight Network
  • Supporting modal shift including exploring geographic disparities in energy infrastructure
  • Establishing a Freight Energy Forum
  • Reviewing and updating Planning Practice Guidance, consulting on updated guidance from Local Transport Plans and engaging with DLUHC on changes to the planning system
  • A ‘Generation Logistics’ campaign to attract new employees to the sector and reforming the Freight and Logistics training offers


We look forward to working with Government, industry and local authorities to progress these in the East.