The future of the UK freight industry

The future of the UK freight industry

The import and export of goods and materials around, and in and out of the country is hugely important to the UK. 

In fact, in 2017 it was reported that logistics added £121 billion to the UK economy, while also helping to employ a further 2.5 million people. It’s easy to see why it’s important, and its importance is expected to continue to grow over the next 30 years. 

Because of this, many people have been looking at our current freight transport methods to see what can be done, and what other areas could be improved. 

Aviation 2050 

One huge area is through the use of air freight. While we currently use air cargo methods here in the UK, there is still a huge potential to be unlocked. 

The government have announced plans to unveil a white paper later on in 2019, where they’ll outline their plans on improving aviation by 2050. However, many have pointed out that there needs to be a whole chapter outlining what needs to be done, and will be done, to improve our air freight activities, especially with Brexit looming. 

So, let’s take a look at the UK freight industry as it is below. 


While we’re on the subject, let’s start with air freight. Currently, it represents around 40% of the UK’s imports and exports value. As you can see, this is quite a high number, and with Brexit on the horizon, this could be the perfect opportunity to continue to trade quicker and easier with the rest of Europe. 

In fact, East Midlands Airport (EMA) alone, part of the Manchester Airports Group (MAG) handles 356,000 tonnes of cargo each year. This equates to £40bn of trade of imports and exports between the EU and £10bn between non-EU countries. The airports are now calling on the government to help them unlock further potential by 2050


There’s a lot of UK freight activity when it comes to roads. In 2016 89% of domestic goods were moved by road. This continued to increase and by 2018 it was reported that domestic freight goods lifted was 1.41 billion tonnes, while goods moved stood at 152 billion. 


While rail plays a big role in freight in the UK, it is much lower than the other two. However, National Rail is predicting a 32% growth by 2033/34. But, this will all depend on investments in rail networks, which is already suffering throughout the UK, and could continue to suffer as we move forward. However, it terms of helping people travel, it looks set to be key for domestic travel. 

While domestic freight here in the UK looks to be continuing to improve, it appears to be clear that more needs to be done with air freight, especially due to Brexit. If road and rail imports and exports are affected, this could be the clear front runner when helping the UK as we move forward, especially as it already contributes so much.