Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) has taken the first steps towards creating the city region’s first-ever freight forum.

Last month it hosted a workshop to find out what challenges logistics firms faced when operating across the 10-district region, and to define the sector’s role in Manchester’s economic growth plans.

Helen Smith, head of logistics and environment at TfGM, said it was “an exciting time” for the region bringing opportunities for operators through projects like the Atlantic Gateway, as well as devolution giving Manchester more control over road and infrastructure investment.

Paul Davison, principal consultant at Aecom, which will head up the new forum, said the group would be “truly representative” of the industry, drawing together businesses from across the whole supply chain and the public sector.

“We are ambitious about what this forum can achieve,” he added. “We want to be at the vanguard of doing things that might not have been tried before, or in a different way. We don't just want quick wins; we want it to really have an impact.”

Themes raised on the day included tackling congestion at key pinch points such as Manchester Airport; ensuring HGV compliance standards aligned with those in other cities; helping operators to obtain customer buy-in for changing delivery habits; and ensuring the right balance between carrot and stick when it came to implementing new rules for freight.

A proposal was put forward on the day to use of the city’s tram network to transport freight by adapting existing rolling stock. A similar trial was carried out in Amsterdam during 2007/08 which brought goods into the city centre and brought out waste paper as a backload. Each converted tram could carry the equivalent of four 7.5-tonne trucks.

Modal shift away from road, out-of-hours deliveries, consolidation centres, and the use of Delivery Servicing Plans and construction logistics plans to mitigate the impact of building sites were also being encouraged.

Smith added: “We absolutely want to get this right. We want the forum to be really worthwhile and make a difference on the ground.”

The forum will be officially launched in September and operators are encouraged to get involved now in shaping its agenda: