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Here is a Wordle analysis of the speech by transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin at the Conservative Party conference:

 

McLoughlinSpeech

Or, put another way, here are the numbers of mentions of key aspects of transport policy:

13 road(s)
9 transport
6 rail
5 trains
4 speed
4 schemes
4 infrastructure
3 network
3 lanes
2 travel
2 station
2 motorway
2 cycle
2 Crossrail
1 widening
1 widened
1 tunnels
1 tunneling
1 trucks
1 trips
1 travelling
1 train
1 traffic
1 track
1 scheme
1 safety
1 route
1 roundabouts
1 railways
1 privatisation
1 potholes
1 ports
1 passengers
1 park
1 lorries
1 lane

1  HS2

1 highways
1 Heathrow
1 hauliers
1 drivers
1 cycling
1 clogged
1 car
1 bypass
1 buses
1 bus
1 bridges
1 bikes
1 bike

 

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The latest survey of the UK’s business community by lobby group the CBI and accountants KPMG makes gloomy reading. “The report, Connect More, highlights the importance of infrastructure to sustainable UK growth, yet with many outstanding issues such as the future funding of the road network, aviation capacity and clarity over the costs of HS2, businesses expect things to get worse over the next five years,” the CBI says.

The CBI/KPMG survey of 526 business leaders found that dissatisfaction with domestic transport has jumped from 28% in 2011 (when the first survey was carried out) to a fairly depressing 49% in 2013. “With relatively few projects underway on the ground and no action on long-term road reform, there is widespread expectation that local roads and motorways will deteriorate over the next five years,” it says.

“The faltering speed of delivery on infrastructure creates a worrying sense that politicians lack the political will to tackle some of the major issues head-on,” John Cridland, CBI director-general said at the report’s launch. “We can’t afford any further delay. The Coalition must show strong leadership and prove that the UK can deliver on a small number of projects over the next 18 months and reach a much-needed consensus on bigger issues such as aviation and roads reform.”

The CBI is therefore calling on the Government “to complete all feasibility studies for road and rail projects outlined in the Spending Review and commit to detailed plans for delivery, while starting the debate on longer-term road reform by conducting an audit of the state of the road network and its costs to operate”.

The need for a comprehensive delivery plan for new transport infrastructure, rather than a ‘shopping list’ of individual schemes, was emphasised by one of the country’s biggest insurance companies, Aviva. Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Paul Abberley, the company’s head of investments, noted that less than £1bn of Aviva’s £230bn fund is currently invested in UK infrastructure. And the reason for this? “The absence of a proper pipeline of projects,” apparently. “If you look at the National Infrastructure Plan, is that an actionable plan or just a list of stuff we need?” Abberley asked rhetorically.

One small crumb of comfort for the Government’s transport department is that, despite all of the above, transport isn’t the business community’ biggest headache at the moment, with energy having overtaken transport since 2012 as the biggest future concern for businesses.

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Home shopping is meant to offer us a more efficient way to shop, and it has become so popular that the last-minute “Christmas rush” is now just as much in the depots and sorting offices as it is on the High Street.

Unfortunately, this increase in home deliveries isn’t matched by an increased likelihood of us shoppers being at home when the goodies arrive.

So we all know the frustration of that little red card, instructing us to head to the sorting office to pick up that latest delivery from Amazon.

So the trip you thought you saved, you haven’t.  And the parcel has been driven to your home and back for no reason.

The alternatives to the red card aren’t that great: leaving parcels out in the rain, chucking them over the garden fence, bothering your neighbours with them, or dumping them in your wheelie bin.

The collection points aren’t ideal either: user-unfriendly opening hours or a location chosen for the benefit of lorries and logistics rather than consumers, or both.  My (so-called) local Parcelforce office is a 40 mile round trip drive and isn’t well connected to public transport at the hour I’m likely to visit.

There has to be a more efficient way to do this. At least that is what researchers at the University of Southampton believe. According to the study team (see here and here), in 2010, the typical UK online shopper spent £1765 on home shopping, up from £572 in 2005, meaning that – even all the way back in 2010 – there were 1.3 billion home shopping deliveries a year.Image

With this large and growing volume of transactions, the case for improving the cat-and-mouse game of parcel delivery is ever more compelling.  They suggest secure, 24-hour accessible lockers at local places we’d be likely to visit anyway: railway stations, supermarkets, etc.  At the moment, these are more common a sight in countries like Germany and Australia.  You get an access code and you pick up your parcel at a time convenient to you, and at a place much easier to get to.  This could make home delivery both more environmentally efficient and less frustrating.

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