The highly anticipated opening of the new London Gateway logistics park is set to take place later this year, with the facility expected to revolutionise the nation's supply chain by providing more direct access to key markets.
With construction now entering the advanced stages, leading figures within the logistics industry are welcoming the extra competition that the London Gateway will bring to the country's logistics sector.
The Port of Felixstowe in Suffolk is currently the UK's busiest container port, handling around two-fifths of the nation's containerised trade. However, its location on the Thames Estuary means goods still have to travel relatively far in order to reach markets in major cities once they have been unloaded from ships.
In contrast, the London Gateway at Thurrock is only 20 miles from the capital, and will enable cargo vessels to come further up the Thames than ever before. As a result, goods will have to travel much shorter distances once they have been unloaded, potentially saving billions of pounds in road transport costs. This, in turn, is likely to revolutionise the nature of all supply chain jobs in the UK.
However, Simon Fraser, chairman of the Felixstowe Port Users Association (FPUA), insists he is not worried by this increase in competition and believes the Suffolk facility will continue to thrive.
Speaking to the BBC, Mr Fraser commented that Felixstowe has "got all the rail, the roads, [and other] feeder services – all of which Thurrock will have to develop over time".
Meanwhile, the London Gateway has begun flexing its logistical muscles by receiving the Yeoman Bridge cargo ship, which delivered some 90,000 tonnes of construction materials to be used in the creation of the port's entry and exit station.
At 249 metres long, the Yeoman Bridge is largest vessel ever to come that far up the Thames, and provides an indication of just how many road miles are likely to be saved by the London Gateway.
Colin Hitchcock, the port's harbour master, has revealed that the ship was initially supposed to dock at a smaller port in the South East, but a decision was later taken for the cargo to be brought directly to Thurrock.
Explaining the reasons behind this decision, Mr Hitchcock commented: "We were aware that by ensuring the ship docked at London Gateway we would remove 9,000 lorry trips, which is a massive saving in terms of emissions, fuel consumption and impact on our national road infrastructure."
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