Economy, Logistics and Freight Demand Forecasting in Great Britain

Economy, Logistics and Freight Demand Forecasting in Great Britain


Y Jin, I Williams, WSP Policy & Research, UK; A McKinnon, Heriot-Watt University, UK; M Shahkarami, Department for Transport, UK


The paper considers the major changes in the economy and logistics which, over the next 5-10 years, are to affect freight distribution in Britain and beyond. The practical needs of freight strategy development are considered.


The paper draws upon a research project that the authors have recently completed for UK Department for Transport (DfT), as well as their wider experience in modelling and logistical research. It considers economic and trade growth, evolution of manufacturing and service industries, and a series of logistics developments that, over the next 5-10 years, are likely to affect the distribution of freight traffic inter-regionally in Great Britain and beyond. The logistics development includes in particular shifts from echelon-type distribution systems to hub-spoke networks, restructuring of retail logistics systems, development of merge-in-transit operations and growth of reverse logistics.

The paper starts the analysis by reviewing the trend in freight demand growth, and its share among the transport modes and road vehicle types are reviewed in the context of

1) The economy. The UK and European economic data are used to plot the trajectory of economic development and to compare the range of outlook in terms of sectoral growth, industrial restructuring, and the development of foreign trade in different commodity groups
2) Land use change. Land use planning and development are examined regarding their impacts upon the volume and pattern of freight movement, and the associated location of handling and warehousing facilities
3) Consumer and retail sector behaviour. The changing trends in household expenditure, in shopping and in tele-shopping/mail-ordering are examined using the British Expenditure and Food Survey and retail statistics
4) Logistical evolution. The dominant trends in logistics and supply chain management are identified for Great Britain as a whole.
5) Changes in transport operations. UK DfT's Key Performance Indicator surveys of the road haulage sub-sectors and the recent statistics on rail freight growth are used to outline the trends in inland transport operations. In addition, the likely responses of transport operators to changes in fuel prices, traffic congestion, and the implementation of the Working Time Directive are considered.

Based on the review, the paper outlines a new methodology in freight forecasting that

1) adopts detailed commodity categories and input-output modelling that are consistent with economic and trade forecasting at the national level
2) represents main logistic stages and their choices of mode and lorry type
3) forecasts future freight demand transparently, based on structural changes in production, trade, logistics, user charges and investment
4) represents realistic user behaviour on location, distribution, mode and route choices, including redistribution of freight between intermodal terminals
5) can interface with passenger and local traffic models.

Using practical experience of developing and validating freight and land use/transport models, particularly the EUNET models for the trans-Pennine corridor, and LASER3.0 for London and its surrounding regions in Southeast England, the authors discusses the possible options for strategic freight demand forecasting and its integration with passenger travel demand modelling. The methodology is assessed in terms of its potentials in
1) providing comprehensive coverage of the freight sectors
2) linking freight demand to economic forecasting
3) representing user responses in location, distribution, mode choice as well as vehicle routeing
4) integrating passenger and road freight traffic forecast at the individual link level for scheme analysis

Furthermore, the practical requirements of policy applications, such as in the development and appraisal of freight strategies, are considered.


Association for European Transport