Government policy on who should pay for transport infrastructure relating to ports is “confused in practice and conceptually flawed,” the Commons Transport Committee has warned.

In a new report on access to UK ports, the committee said there should be a presumption that significant improvements to access to ports would be publicly funded and that the DfT “could do more” to promote ports’ interests.

The committee said it was “particularly concerned” by suggestions that UK ports were put at a competitive disadvantage compared to foreign ports by the UK government’s insistence that they pay for such infrastructure themselves.

“If the DfT wishes to be an ‘engine for growth’ it must prioritise the removal of constraints to port development caused by inadequate transport infrastructure,” said the committee.

The report also called on the DfT to do more to encourage short sea shipping as an alternative to road freight. Although the government offers a Waterborne Freight Grant to support freight movements by sea, coastal shipping levels have declined in recent years and no grants were made in relation to coastal or short sea shipping projects from 2006 to 2011, stressed the committee.