10 March 2021
The British Ports Association (BPA) has today welcomed much of the contents of Sir Peter Hendy’s interim Union Connectivity Review report, which acknowledges the critical need for strong freight and passenger links between the four nations of the UK.
The Review also outlines visions for a UK Strategic Transport Network, to expand and upgrade direct transport links across the UK, helping to reduce bottlenecks and stimulate growth. The BPA has previously noted that competing priorities of the four administrations has led to ‘blind spots’ and neglect of certain routes, which has also been identified as an area of focus in the report.
However, the Government’s proposals of a fixed-link of a bridge or tunnel between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which are acknowledged in the Review, have raised concerns amongst the maritime industry.
Commenting on the Review, Richard Ballantyne, Chief Executive of the British Ports Association, said:
“We welcome recognition of the criticality of maritime transport to union connectivity in the interim report published today by the Review. There are some useful recommendations on certain routes and strategic networks which we welcome discussion on.
However, there is growing concern over the seriousness of suggestions of a fixed link between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. We have multiple maritime links between Britain and Ireland which provide jobs and gateways to other locations. At best there appears to be negligible support amongst freight transport operators for this potentially immense infrastructure project, yet this project could potentially run into many tens of billions of pounds. We would suggest the Government would see a much better return on investment if allocated these resources across the whole UK transport network.
A fixed-link would represent a redundant and superfluous project – while far less money could be spent strengthening connections between the nations with far greater economic benefits drawn. Furthermore, when built, the link could drastically increase greenhouse gas emissions from transport, by encouraging the mode shift from shipping, the most carbon-efficient form of transport, to road.
Also the link would do little to overcome the new post Brexit borders requirements imposed on Northern Irish traffic as goods will continue to be subject to customs and other controls.
The Union Connectivity Review was commissioned by the UK Government, to consider road, rail, air and sea links between the four nations of the UK, and how they could be improved to fuel the UK’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
This interim report forms the first stage of this review. Final proposals will be detailed in the report when published in Summer, which will then be considered by the Government ahead of the Spending Review.