The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) is calling on the government to ban the sale of new diesel lorries by 2040.

The call comes in a new report published on 23rd April 2019, which says the development of hydrogen and battery-powered heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) “is already well advanced”, with the cleaner alternatives expected to be commercially available in the early 2020s.

The NIC, which provides the government with impartial and expert advice on major long-term infrastructure challenges, believes the move is necessary to ease “worsening congestion” and help make UK freight carbon-free by 2050.

It is urging the government to set the trajectory for a clean freight system within the next two years, outlining long term objectives to enable the industry to become zero emission, helping tackle air pollution and deliver on the nation’s climate targets.

The UK’s freight system moves around 1.6 tonnes of goods a year, with the final delivery in vans and HGVs making a significant contribution to congestion in busy towns and cities.

Road and rail freight account for 6% of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions and NIC says this could increase to 20% by 2050 if no action is taken.

Recommendations

The NIC recommends ministers to establish a new Freight Leadership Council, bringing together government and industry for accelerated progress on long term issues.

It adds the government should introduce new planning guidance for local authorities by 2020 so they can incorporate effective policies and schemes for freight as part of their local transport plans

City authorities should incorporate plans for freight as part of their long-term infrastructure strategies, covering transport, employment opportunities and new homes

The government should develop a framework for minimum standards of freight data collection to support the development of the freight policies that form part of these long-term infrastructure plans.

NIC Chair Sir John Armitt said: “Whether it’s retailers, manufacturers or each of us as consumers, we all rely heavily on our freight industry. As one of the most efficient in the world, it rarely fails to deliver. But we are paying the price for this miracle of modern service through the impact on our environment and air quality and through congestion on our roads. The government must act to help businesses tackle these issues.

“Today’s report says we need to set out bold plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel HGVs, bring emissions from freight on both road and rail to zero and give the industry greater visibility in Whitehall and town halls.”

Government response

A government spokesman said: “We are investing record amounts in our transport network to move goods and people around the country quickly, easily and cleanly. Tackling the issue of pollution and investing in green technologies is a priority, which is why we have a £3.5 billion plan to improve air quality and reduce harmful emissions.

“We are taking action now to incentivise freight companies to move to cleaner HGV fleets, including through investment in research and development for greener vehicles and by introducing higher charges for the dirtiest lorries using our roads.”

The government previously pledged to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040.

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