Freight operators were today urged to act “loudly, clearly and collectively” in any approach to government ahead of full Brexit negotiations.

Speaking at Freight in the City Spring Summit, Labour MP Rob Flello reiterated a plea made to industry last year for operators to voice plans for improving freight policy as a matter of urgency.

“All government departments are going to be log-jammed for years to come unravelling the legislative implications of Brexit,” said Flello (pictured, right).

With the DfT likely to be dominated by HS2 and Heathrow’s third runway, he said any ideas put forward by the freight sector must be have an easy-to-verify upside and preferably no departmental expenditure or effort.

“Make good arguments now or see them lost under the deluge of post-European legislative noise about to engulf us all,” he added.

Focusing on today’s summit theme – ‘Improving the last mile’ – Flello acknowledged that this was the most visible and politically-charged element of all deliveries.

“Lorry drivers are seen as the cause of urban congestion, pollution and the shortening of lives in our cities.  The caricature of ‘white van man’ as the careless, selfish road hog, rather than the person who’s bringing the stuff we all need is an unfair but prevalent one,” said Flello.

Addressing calls to switch to greener modes of transport through purely penalising diesel vehicles was not a “magic bullet in a world where consumers demand next-day delivery or better”, he believed.

Instead, smarter use of existing roads such as night-time deliveries, better responsiveness to varying traffic flows, intelligent management systems including traffic lights and sharing out the roads more efficiently should be encouraged as an immediate measure.

He also called for a national, integrated transport policy to be developed by central government.

In addition, Flello believed support of the GB Rail Freight Route could be a cost-effective and vital approach to removing freight from roads.

About 12% of UK freight goes by rail, whereas across the rest of Europe this figure is 15% and rising, he said.

“The GB Freight Route could take hundreds of thousands of lorries off our roads each week.”

The idea is for a dedicated line from London, through the Midlands and into Scotland and Wales following 480 miles of existing or disused track.  It would be a roll-on, roll-off system with lorries carried on the train.

Flello said it’s calculated to use a third of the fuel the road journeys would consume and produce 70% less CO2.

“Major supermarkets are already keen and at just six billion quid it’s about a tenth the price of HS2 and would take just five years to complete,” he said.

“It’s currently being considered by the National Infrastructure Commission and, with all the things going for it HS2 doesn’t have - cost, deliverability, carbon positivity, lack of invasion of the Green Belt and unquestionable economic benefit – it must be supported.”