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James O’Brien asks when people will see Brexit downsides, as food trade hits ‘crisis point’

18 June 2021, 14:58

By Fiona Jones

James O’Brien questioned when people will accept the pitfalls of Brexit, as Tesco is forced to bin almost 50,000 tonnes of fresh food every week due to severe shortage of heavy goods drivers in the UK.

Reported in industry publication The Grocer, Tesco made this admission during an industry-wide round-table organised by the Department for Transport.

Alongside exportation problems, the “chronic driver shortage and staff shortfalls” means a food shortage in the UK is “inevitable”, with imported goods being rarer and pricier, The Grocer said.

With food and drink exports to the EU from the UK almost halved, 65,000 HGV drivers are needed to fill the gap made by a mass exodus of EU drivers, according to Road Haulage Association.

The crisis is so severe one leading industry figure has called for the Government to put the Army on standby to transport food if the situation worsens.

James O’Brien reacted to this: “When will it become inarguable?”

“So I can tell you that 50 tonnes of food is currently being thrown away in Tesco, Tesco can say it is in large part, not entirely obviously, we’re in the middle of a pandemic still, Tesco will say it is in large part because of Brexit, we can’t get the drivers.

“You will say no it isn’t. I wonder at what point does it become inarguable?”

He pointed out that food and drink exports to anywhere outside the EU have returned “roughly to normal levels so [Covid] is not the reason.”

He cited his local convenience store a shortage of fresh produce, questioning whether that is part of a bigger picture, also noticing a slight increase of pictures of empty shelves on Twitter.

“I do wonder whether you are already feeling the pinch. As ever now, the people I really really really want to hear from are the people who are absolutely convinced there was never going to be any pinch.

James surmised, “So UK food and drink exports to the European Union have almost halved in the first three months of the year, meanwhile over at Tesco suppliers are being forced to bin nearly 50 tonnes of food a week due to a lorry driver crisis.

“Imagine in a normal country that wasn’t still enslaved to Brexit what the tabloid papers would be doing with the news that leading industry figures are calling for the army to be put on standby. Normally they love that, don’t they?

The people that prioritise flags over facts. They think that ten students taking down a photograph of the Queen is really really bad but Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Leader of the House of Commons, flying to Balmoral to lie to her is absolutely fine, normally they’d love this.

“They’ve got the Army on standby, this is outrageous! Nope, not a word. Not a sausage, not a syllable. Such a severe situation, according to one leading industry figure, that he’s calling for the Government to put the Army on standby to transport food.”

The suggestion was made by James Bielby, chief executive officer of the Federation of Wholesale Distributors.

He said: “The situation has reached crisis point and it is likely to get worse as more hospitality venues open and demand increases.

“We are concerned enough to suggest that the Government considers having Army trucks on standby to ensure there are enough vehicles and drivers to distribute food.”

This is why ew Sheffield railhead is trucking boss’s crown achievement

It saw total victory for the Sheffield haulier, which grew with the popularity of road transport, while the giant rail depot withered with the decline of the steel industry and died.

But the story has a twist.

For the trucking firm has just spent £3m reviving the railhead. And co-founder Frank Newell say it’s his crowning achievement.

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Tinsley Marshalling Yards circa 1965. It had 32 marshalling lanes.Tinsley Marshalling Yards circa 1965. It had 32 marshalling lanes.

Tinsley Marshalling Yards circa 1965. It had 32 marshalling lanes.

Over just seven weeks earlier this year, the company laid out three acres of concrete and 700 yards of track and reconnected the yard to the rail network.

Today it is home to more than 800 shipping containers and receives two 34-wagon freight trains a day from the port of Felixstowe.

The service saves up to 400,000 road miles a week, cutting lorry pollution and congestion, and is already close to its 1,000 container capacity.

Frank, aged 69, said its popularity was a relief.

Frank Newell. Picture Scott MerryleesFrank Newell. Picture Scott Merrylees
Frank Newell. Picture Scott Merrylees

“It was a very big commitment for us as a family business. I’ve been in business for 50 years and have always taken educated gambles. You get to the stage where you have to play forward and do it.

“It’s the best thing I have done. I’m so proud of what we have achieved.”

A mechanic by trade, his youngest son, Anthony, aged 17, is employed in the workshop ‘on the spanners’ learning lorry maintenance.

Sons Stephen, 43, and John, 49, also worked their way up.

The site can store 1,000 containers.The site can store 1,000 containers.
The site can store 1,000 containers.

Frank added: “Going through the ranks gives them a good insight.”

He started with one lorry in 1971 and, with Paul Wright, built the firm into a £50m-a-year business that employs 300.

It is one of just a handful of road hauliers that have moved into rail and Tinsley is the only operation of its type in South Yorkshire, it is claimed.

Stephen said growing concerns about climate change led the firm to move fast.

Unloading the train with a £500,000 box stacker.Unloading the train with a £500,000 box stacker.
Unloading the train with a £500,000 box stacker.

“You have to be careful you don’t get left behind,” he added.

Containers are mostly from China and India and hold everything from patio slabs to clothing to car parts. But they do not have high value items like iPhones or ‘high consequence products’ like fireworks.

About 55 can fit on a train and they are unloaded by four £500,000 ‘box stackers’, including one which runs on hydrogenated vegetable oil, a green fuel.

Containers are taken to their final destination by lorry, some 80 a day in a 24-hour operation.

Stephen said they had used local suppliers, with concrete from Cemex in Attercliffe, reinforcing from BRC in Barnsley and ballast from Aggregate Industries’ quarry in Buxton.

The site is owned by Network Rail and leased to Newell & Wright for 35 years, with a reduction on rent because it is a brownfield site, he added.

Aerial view of Tinsley Marshalling Yards, Sheffield, December 1987.Aerial view of Tinsley Marshalling Yards, Sheffield, December 1987.
Aerial view of Tinsley Marshalling Yards, Sheffield, December 1987.

Its success meant they planned to add two more services, with freight trainers from Southampton and London Gateway on the Suffolk coast.

A second phase of expansion could see a similar-sized platform and storage area built to the south, closer to the bridge over the Parkway, near Junction 33 of the M1.

A third phase could use land to the north, close to two large warehouses that were built on what was the widest part of the marshalling yard.

In 1961, a tenth of the rail-borne freight in Britain originated in the Sheffield district. Tinsley Marshalling Yard was opened by the infamous Dr Richard Beeching in 1965 to serve the steel industry. At its height it handled 200 locomotives and 3,000 wagons a day.

But within a few short years it was hit by competition from road and closed in stages from 1985.

Duncan Clark, of Newell and Wright, said part of the site was cut out of rock and part was electrified, receiving electric trains from Manchester that came through the now closed Woodhead tunnel.

The yard was disused and disconnected from the rail network when Newell and Wright took it on. A new link was laid to the north connecting to a local line near Shepcote junction and then on to Rotherham station, Doncaster and the East Coast Mainline.

The company hopes to connect the site from the south providing a simpler and more direct route into the network, he added.

Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts said the company’s achievement was ‘fantastic’ and he would speak to the mayor of South Yorkshire and Department of Transport about providing financial backing.

He added: “I think what they have done is incredible and what they want to do is fantastic. It’s really rising to the climate challenge.

“I will be speaking to the mayor about how we can engage, this is a really important part of local infrastructure and should benefit a lot of firms.

“It’s also of national significance and I’ll be speaking to the Department of Transport about providing some sort of financial backing and support.

“There have been various plans over the years to reopen the yard but these guys have done it.”

Kevin Newman, senior route freight manager for Network Rail, hailed the site as part of the ‘vital role that freight has played in the country’s response to the Covid pandemic and how important it is to the recovery of the economy’.

“Reopening routes, expanding services and gaining new freight customers, as well as running longer, heavier trains, is helping to get more HGVs off the road.”

Newell & Wright Transport was formed in 1974 by Frank Newell and Paul Wright. At that time it was a ‘very small general haulage company’ operating from rented premises.

Over the years it grew and moved to larger sites three times before setting up, in 1987, on its current 6.5 acre freehold site at Tinsley.

Local journalism holds the powerful to account and gives people a voice. Please take out a digital subscription[1] or buy a paper.

Thank you. Nancy Fielder, editor.

A freight train from the port of Felixstowe arrives at Tinsley Marshalling Yard. Picture Scott MerryleesA freight train from the port of Felixstowe arrives at Tinsley Marshalling Yard. Picture Scott Merrylees
A freight train from the port of Felixstowe arrives at Tinsley Marshalling Yard. Picture Scott Merrylees
Three acres of concrete were laid to make the site.Three acres of concrete were laid to make the site.
Three acres of concrete were laid to make the site.
Frank Newell at Tinsley Marshalling Yards.Frank Newell at Tinsley Marshalling Yards.
Frank Newell at Tinsley Marshalling Yards.
From left: MP Clive Betts and Stephen and Frank Newell have their picture taken as a train arrives.From left: MP Clive Betts and Stephen and Frank Newell have their picture taken as a train arrives.
From left: MP Clive Betts and Stephen and Frank Newell have their picture taken as a train arrives.

References

  1. ^ digital subscription (www.thestar.co.uk)

Government lease for lorry park use at Manston will not be extended beyond June 30

Manston Photo Frank Leppard

The Government has today (June 18) confirmed that it will not extend its use of Manston airport as a lorry holding facility beyond June 30, when the current lease expires.

South Thanet MP, Craig Mackinlay, received the news in a letter from Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, Rachel Maclean MP.

The Government acquired Manston for the period to the end of June as a contingency in case freight traffic was disrupted at the end of the EU Transition Period. These circumstances no longer apply.

The current assessment based on analysis of predicted tourist traffic levels during the summer and potential knock-on impact on freight traffic shows that the use of the site this summer is not required.

South Thanet MP, Craig Mackinlay, said: “I hope my South Thanet constituents and the people of Thanet and East Kent will find this decision reassuring, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their understanding over these last few months.”

Operations at the site were officially suspended at the end of March.[1]

Hundreds of staff worked at the lorry park on temporary contracts and it is understood they were offered transfer to other sites including Ashford, Thurrock, Ebbsfleet and a new one being developed at Guston.

The contract to use part of the Manston site as a lorry park was extended until the end of June 2021 in a deal made between landowners RiverOak Strategic Partners, former landowners but lorry site operators Stone Hill Park and the Department of Transport.

The site came into use earlier than the planned January 1 date after the French government closed the border to UK travellers and accompanied freight going into the country shortly before Christmas over fears of the spreading ‘Kent’ variant of covid.

The move led to the site being parked up to capacity with a large backlog of HGVs on county roads.

Photo Hazel Nicholls

Currently further representations are invited for the Secretary of State’s re-determination of the application by RiverOak Strategic Partners for an order granting Development Consent for the reopening and development of Manston Airport.

The Secretary of State has also appointed an independent aviation assessor to advise him on matters relating to the need for the development and to produce a report summarising those findings.

Submission deadline is July 9.

A Development Consent Order granting approval for an air freight hub at Manston airport  was  quashed in February with a new decision now needing to be issued after a re-examination of the Planning Inspectorate evidence.

The action came as the result of a Judicial Review challenge to the decision, launched by Ramsgate resident Jenny Dawes last year, which was to have been heard in the High Court.

The substantive hearing was due to look at whether the Government followed correct procedure in reaching the decision to approve the DCO for airport landowners RiverOak Strategic Partners.

But, last December the Department of Transport acknowledged that the decision approval letter issued from the Minister of State did not contain enough detail about why approval was given against the advice of the Planning Inspectorate and said the Judicial Review would not be contested.

An official consent order was issued from the court to quash the DCO.

Responses should be sent by email to [email protected][2], marked “For the attention of the Manston Airport Case Team”.

Representations and the new reports will be available to see after the deadline at https://infrastructure.planninginspectorate.gov.uk/projects/south-east/manston-airport/[3]

LIVE: Traffic stopped on M60 with major traffic delays after multi-vehicle crash

A section of the M60[1] has been closed following a collision involving multiple vehicles.

Traffic has been stopped on the M60 clockwise between junction 16 and 17 towards Swinton and Whitefield following the collision, traffic services say.

Traffic officers and recovery crews are on their way to the area.

A spokesperson for Greater Manchester Police confirmed the collision had involved three vehicles, with one of them being a lorry.

The collision has led to a series of long delays, with traffic currently reportedly backed up to Junction 10 to Urmston[2].

Transport for Greater Manchester has advised that people use alternative routes in order to avoid the congestion.

Follow our live blog below for the latest updates on this breaking news story.

References

  1. ^ M60 (www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk)
  2. ^ Urmston (www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk)

Tonnes of food is wasted each week due to driver shortages, warns Tesco and industry experts

Almost 50 tonnes of food is going in the bin each week reported Tesco, as experts warn the government of a heavy goods vehicle driver shortage.

During an industry-wide roundtable with ministers on Wednesday, organised by the Department for Transport[1], UK retailer Tesco highlighted that 48 tonnes of food had been wasted in the past seven days.

Industry experts have advised that there are not enough drivers to meet current demands.

“Since the beginning of the year, 15,000 European lorry drivers[2], which were reinforcing our staffing, have left because of Brexit, because they didn’t feel welcome and immigration problems,” Rod McKenzie, CEO of the Road Haulage Association[3] (RHA), told The Independent.

“The tax changes that came in in April have also been difficult for them.”

In addition, the RHA stated that some 30,000 lorry driver tests were cancelled last year, due to the pandemic.

That adds up to “30,000 potential lorry drivers,” said McKenzie. “There is an absolute danger to the UK supply chain[4] on which we all depend – 95 per cent of what we have comes from the back of a lorry.

“Whether you work in the food or building sector, there are clear delays.”

The diver shortage is especially problematic when it comes to perishable goods, said Shane Brennan, CEO of the Cold Chain Federation.

“If some chilled and very short life products can’t be delivered they have to be destroyed,” he told The Independent.

“We are seeing the deployment of assets from the frozen food chain into the chilled food chain to try and avoid that wastage.

“Everyone is trying to work out how we can cope with the demand with the lack of labour. We are in urgent talks across the industry and in government about what can be done to get us through the summer.

“We are trying to do our day job without people.”

Where safe to do so, Tesco and other UK retailers donate food to charities and food banks, but spoiled food often goes straight to landfill.

Average deliveries to food redistribution charity FareShare would be 150-160 tonnes per day, but are down to about 100, translating to 800,000 meals a week for people suffering from food poverty, the charity told The Grocer.

“Food we would normally expect to receive into our warehouses on an average day is at risk of not reaching us, and therefore at risk of not reaching the vulnerable people we support,” said Lindsay Boswell, CEO of FareShare.

The historic ability of the UK to deliver is now under threat, claims McKenzie, who suggested the government let European drivers back in, speed up and prioritise driver testing, and “do more at apprenticeship level”.

As a nation, our mindset when it comes to lorry drivers has to change, he claims: “We need to make lorry drivers feel more loved – these guys do an essential job.”

References

  1. ^ Department for Transport (www.independent.co.uk)
  2. ^ lorry drivers (www.independent.co.uk)
  3. ^ Road Haulage Association (www.independent.co.uk)
  4. ^ supply chain (www.independent.co.uk)

Lanes reopen on M62 after crash involving car and lorry

ALL lanes have reopened on the M62 following a crash this dinnertime, Friday.

Two lanes were closed and queuing traffic was reported following a collision involving a car and a lorry on the eastbound carriageway.

It occurred between junction 10 for the M6 at Croft and junction 11 for Birchwood.

Lanes three and four, of four, were closed.

Highways England traffic officers and recovery crews were dispatched to the scene.

Also in attendance were police and ambulance crews.

References

  1. ^ #M62 (twitter.com)
  2. ^ #J10 (twitter.com)
  3. ^ #CroftInterchange (twitter.com)
  4. ^ #M6 (twitter.com)
  5. ^ #J11 (twitter.com)
  6. ^ #WarringtonEast (twitter.com)
  7. ^ #Birchwood (twitter.com)
  8. ^ #A574 (twitter.com)
  9. ^ @OfficialTfGM (twitter.com)
  10. ^ @manctraffic (twitter.com)
  11. ^ June 18, 2021 (twitter.com)

Lanes closed and queuing traffic on M62 due to crash involving car and lorry

TWO lanes are currently closed and queuing traffic is being reported on the M62 this dinnertime, Friday.

The cause of the disruption is a crash involving a car and a lorry on the eastbound carriageway.

It occurred between junction 10 for the M6 at Croft and junction 11 for Birchwood.

Lanes three and four, of four, are closed.

Highways England has confirmed that traffic officers and recovery crews have been dispatched to the scene.

Also in attendance are police and ambulance crews.

References

  1. ^ #M62 (twitter.com)
  2. ^ #J10 (twitter.com)
  3. ^ #CroftInterchange (twitter.com)
  4. ^ #M6 (twitter.com)
  5. ^ #J11 (twitter.com)
  6. ^ #WarringtonEast (twitter.com)
  7. ^ #Birchwood (twitter.com)
  8. ^ #A574 (twitter.com)
  9. ^ @OfficialTfGM (twitter.com)
  10. ^ @manctraffic (twitter.com)
  11. ^ June 18, 2021 (twitter.com)

Driver shortage causes UK supply crisis

A shortage of lorry drivers is resulting in fresh produce being dumped or left to rot in cold stores, while supermarket shelves and restaurant plates go empty, produce suppliers and retailers warn.

The driver deficit – the worst in over 20 years, according to driver recruitment agency Driver Require – is the result of an exodus of EU drivers post-Brexit and government failure to recruit a replacement workforce. The coronavirus pandemic, which has prevented driving tests and training for over a year, as well as a hike in driver costs, has exacerbated the shortfall.

Haulage companies are therefore struggling to deliver goods – either imported or domestically produced – to UK retailers and restaurants, causing delays and product losses, and empty plates and shelves, distributors say.

Tesco, the UK’s biggest supermarket chain, is understood to have informed the UK Government’s Department of Transport that its suppliers are being forced to bin nearly 50 tonnes of fresh food every week because there are too few lorry drivers to transport produce to stores.

Meanwhile, the Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD) is so concerned that it has urged the government to consider having Army trucks on standby to ensure there are enough vehicles and drivers to distribute food.

“It’s shocking, but it’s true. The acute shortage of HGV drivers is now the direct cause of perfectly good, graded and packed fresh produce being dumped or left rotting in coldstores,” Tim O’Malley, managing director of major UK produce distributor Nationwide Produce, told FPJ. “In all my years in fresh produce I’ve never seen anything like this. Goods are being produced, but not delivered.”

The current situation – dubbed a national crisis by some suppliers – is predicted to get worse as the UK continues to open up after lockdown, and demand increases from hospitality and retail.

Brexit clearance issues and a global shortage of shipping containers are further deepening transport problems for imported produce, one source told FPJ.

“The driver shortage has reached crisis point for some of our members and we believe it is likely to get worse as more hospitality venues open and demand increases,” said FWD chief executive James Bielby.

“With the estimated 70,000 shortfall in HGV drivers, some wholesalers have had to limit the number of deliveries they make to convenience stores which has led to some availability issues.

“We’ve asked the government to re-instate the temporary extension of drivers’ hours (from 9 to 11) which was in place last year but ended recently. Other proposals we are putting forward include ending furlough for HGV drivers, temporarily waiving requirements for medical certs and CPC for those which have run out, and using army drivers to deliver to vulnerable communities.”

Meanwhile, in an open letter to the FPJ, Nationwide Produce’s O’Malley urged produce industry suppliers to work with hauliers and customers to get through this crisis.

“I would urge you not to shout at your hauliers and threaten them with bills, as that will get you nowhere – work with them to find solutions,” he wrote. “Customers will have to be far more flexible on delivery times. We also need to stop hauling fresh air around the country. Full pallets and full loads are what we need in a crisis like this.”

O’Malley added that customers need to be more flexible on date codes to allow direct deliveries from abroad. “I’m sure this will eventually lead us all to adopt better practices, but for now we need to work together to find a way through this crisis,” he said.

Alex Veitch, general manager – public policy at Logistics UK, added: “With a large pool of potential candidates available, owing to the nation’s higher unemployment, Logistics UK is urging the government to make HGV driver training affordable, accessible and attractive for all. 

“Our 2021 Logistics Report shows that 29 per cent of logistics businesses anticipate that they will be unable to fill vacancies for HGV drivers this year; a further 14.5 per cent expect long delays before filling a role. With the logistics industry in urgent need of these workers, Logistics UK is urging the government to include training for HGV Drivers in their list of courses funded through the National Skills Fund to reskill potential employees and help recruit them into the industry.

“Logistics UK is also urging the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) to maintain its fast-track programme to catch-up on at least 30,000 driving tests that were postponed due to COVID-19 between March and December 2020; this has left thousands of potential HGV drivers waiting in the wings when the UK needs them most to support every facet of UK PLC.”