Date Posted:

22 May 2024

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Freeport East and East Midlands Freeport have announced a new partnership to support a green freight corridor that will help decarbonise transport and drive enhanced skills and employment initiatives along the length of one of the UK’s most important transportation routes.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed by Freeport East CEO, Steve Beel and Tom Newman-Taylor CEO of East Midlands Freeport on Wednesday 22 May at UKREiif. The MOU underlines both parties’ commitment to working with a range of public and private sector partners, particularly in the logistics sector, to deliver a greener transportation corridor.

Building on the opportunities created by the Government’s recently published Freeports Delivery Roadmap, the initiative will emphasise the need for greater investment to support the decarbonisation of transport flows between the two freeport locations. By working together, the freeports will accelerate the technologies, business models, innovation and infrastructure needed to drive decarbonisation by utilising green hydrogen, electric charging systems and novel technology applications, such as digital twins.

Green Corridors are already an established part of the maritime decarbonisation sector. Delivering a green corridor initiative between the UK’s largest container port and the heart of the Midlands logistics Golden Triangle, offers the opportunity to combine maritime and land transport decarbonisation initiatives to reduce the carbon footprint of goods entering and leaving the UK.

Every day, over 5,000 trucks and daily freight trains leave the ports in the Freeport East area, of which the majority head towards the Midlands and onwards to others part of the UK. The largest of these ports, Felixstowe, is the main gateway to the UK from the Far East and a range of global destinations. East Midlands Freeport, which is centred on the Golden Triangle for logistics, road, rail and the UK’s largest dedicated air cargo operation at East Midlands Airport provides significant opportunities to drive clean fuel applications that will influence the whole of the UK.

Projects already underway that will support the corridor include development of green logistics infrastructure in Felixstowe, Stowmarket and East Midlands Gateway. Freeport East is also developing a Green Hydrogen Hub that will support clean fuels for transport decarbonisation while East Midlands Freeport is supporting the transition of the UK’s last coal fired power station at Ratcliffe on Soar to a clean energy production hub.

The Government has set an ambitious target of growing rail freight by at least 75% by 2050 alongside delivering a net zero rail network. It is investing in zero emission HGV demonstrators ahead of a planned phase out of non-zero emissions HGV sales by 2040. Benefits of a green corridor would not only support the UK’s aspirations on net zero, but also help minimise the impact of freight transport in places like Cambridge, Ipswich and Leicester.

The parties have also identified the opportunity to strengthen collaboration on skills developments – East Midlands Freeport is progressing plans for a Future Energy Skills Hub and £17m has been invested in a Zero Carbon Innovation Centre, while Freeport East is looking to develop new innovation and skills centres in Stowmarket and Harwich.  The Green Corridor initiative will drive a new focus on the demands for transport and energy planning, green logistics and operation of new vehicle fleet and fuels, all of which will require new skills for the future.

Rachel Eburne, Mid Suffolk District Councillor and Director of Freeport East, said:

“Transport emissions must be cut if we are to meet net zero targets, so we welcome this agreement between Freeport East and East Midlands Freeport and hope it will inspire even wider collaboration, ideas and action.

“While working on decarbonising road transport, getting more freight off the roads and onto rail will be an essential step, which is why we also need investment in the local rail network, such as that planned at Haughley Junction in Mid Suffolk, as part of this regional green corridor approach.”

Tom Newman-Taylor, Chief Executive of East Midlands Freeport, said:

“This exciting initiative illustrates how Freeports can be forerunners in the decarbonisation of transport and industry. We’re looking forward to working with Freeport East and our partners to deliver greener freight along this important corridor. With large-scale clean energy investments we can drive demand and opportunities for greener logistics, using our central location to deliver widespread change.”

Tom Williams, Deputy CEO of Maritime Transport Ltd said:

“Freeport East and East Midlands Freeport are at the forefront of zero carbon innovation  and this partnership announcement is a positive development for UK trade and represents an important milestone in our strategy to create a more sustainable logistics framework through modal shift. Since 2019, our rail freight share has grown from 6% to 24%.

“The new green corridor initiative will further increase rail transport for Midlands-bound cargo with battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell trucks completing first and final mile transport. UK Freeports are perfect places for businesses to collaborate and grow and this partnership is an exciting step towards a cleaner, more efficient UK freight industry.”

Peter Jones, Head of Green Hydrogen at ScottishPower, said:

“This is an encouraging step forward in the drive to develop the hydrogen economy. Collaborations like this provide focus on the pathways necessary to decarbonise key sectors like heavy industry and transport.

“ScottishPower is developing projects that will offer 100% renewable green hydrogen solutions to customers, providing clean fuels for transport that benefit the whole of the UK.”

Steve Beel, Chief Executive of Freeport East, said:

“Our Green Corridor initiative reflects the commitment of our freeports and industry partners to deliver more sustainable and decarbonised transportation.  For goods travelling into and out of the UK, to destinations ranging from Europe, to the Far East and the rest of the world, this will facilitate greener logistics through the Ports of Felixstowe, Ipswich and Harwich to the heart of the UK economy and beyond.

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