Government pledges on freight

02 December 2010

Speaking in yesterday’s House of Lords debate about heavier and longer lorries (LHVs), government transport spokesman Earl Attlee told the House of Lords, ‘We will do nothing that reduces the amount of freight carried by rail.’ And he categorically ruled out permitting any trials of goods vehicles longer than 18.75 metres or heavier than 44 tonnes.

However he added that the government were awaiting the conclusions of research into ‘a small increment in the length of articulated lorries. He also conceded that Lord Snape, the former Labour MP for West Bromwich East, was ‘mostly right’ when he said

  • the heaviest goods vehicles directly abstract traffic from rail freight
  • the road haulage industry has for years been claiming - spuriously - that heavier and longer goods vehicles would mean fewer of them
  • the heaviest goods vehicles have, for over 30 years, failed to pay their true track costs; and that accepting longer and heavier vehicles will cause even more damage to Britain's roads, which will be paid for by other taxpayers

The Earl went on to add that the government has ‘absolutely no intention of increasing the gross weight of a goods vehicle or altering the permitted axle weights for precisely these reasons’.

Lord Davies of Oldham, who as Bryan Davies was Labour MP for Enfield North and later for Oldham Central and Royton, wanted to know the reasons for a delay in introducing charging for heavy goods vehicles, especially as the government ‘is aware of the unfairness of foreign lorries coming into this country and using our roads without cost’ - and was told the government were ‘working on it’.

The Earl also confirmed that it is the policy of this government to carry as many goods by rail as possible and to transfer goods from road to rail wherever possible.

ASLEF’s general secretary Keith Norman welcomed the statements. ‘This is very heartening for all of us who have campaigned against longer and heavier vehicles (LHVs),’ he said. ‘We will now seek to convince the government to extend their policy from ‘not doing anything to reduce rail freight’ to one of actively supporting its extension.’

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