Highways Agency must focus on freight operators, too, warns FTA01 May 2014

The FTA (Freight Transport Association, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary this week at the Commercial Vehicle Show – 29 April to 1 May) is urging government not to ignore the needs of freight operators.

Its warning comes after the DfT (Department for Transport) announced, eelier this week, that it will set up the Highways Agency as a government-owned company, with input from passenger and rail industry bodies.

The announcement follows a public consultation last year on the future of the Highways Agency.

The decision will see the agency established with a commercial focus, with a long-term funding guarantee through a Road Investment Strategy.

A new regulatory body and road user champion body would protect the interests of road users, said the DfT at the time, but now says this will be provided by expanding the Office of Rail Regulation and the rail passenger lobby group Passenger Focus.

Malcolm Bingham, FTA head of roads policy, welcomes the new-look Highways Agency, but cautions: "There must be a clear understanding of the needs of freight and logistics users, and these needs must be provided for."

The proposals, he adds, need more explanation: "FTA understands the government's desire to save money, but it would be all too easy to lose track of freight requirements in organisations that have had – until now – a focus on passenger needs and a regulatory framework for the railways," he continues.

"This will be a steep learning curve for the organisations, and FTA will be setting out some clear criteria against which their performance should be judged."

Laura Cork

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