A MAJOR public consultation has been launched into a draft freight strategy for the region – including reliable trans-Pennine links.

Businesses, people working within the freight and logistics sector and members of the public are being urged to have their say.

The need for efficient east-west connectivity across the Pennines is among issues in the spotlight.

Campaigners have long been fighting for the reopening of the disused 12-mile Skipton to Colne railway line, which would provide a direct route from Keighley into Lancashire.

And last year, West Yorkshire think tank Same Skies suggested freight transport could be reintroduced to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal – which was a successful commercial route for 150 years – and other waterways.

The new freight and logistics strategy, developed by Transport for the North, outlines challenges ahead and highlights opportunities to address them.

It says the sector is vitally important for the north of England, with a quarter of GB freight starting or ending its journey here.

But it faces several constraints, including a shortage of warehouse capacity and a disproportionate reliance on southern ports, as well as the need for better trans-Pennine connections.

The strategy blueprint stresses the importance of the efficient movement of goods, particularly for economic recovery and growth, and sets out an urgent need for action to decarbonise the sector.

Martin Tugwell, Transport for the North chief executive, said: "The freight and logistics sector is vital in helping us all get the things we need to go about our daily lives. The impact of the pandemic and the UK leaving the EU brought this into sharp focus, so now is the perfect time for the north of England to set out a strategy on how we can best support and enable the movement of goods around our region.

"Our freight and logistics strategy – which covers road, rail and waterway freight – reveals the data that drives the sector, identifies options for decarbonising freight and sets out the importance of the sector to enabling ambitious growth for businesses.

"It’s an important piece of work and we urge everyone to get involved in the consultation – those who work in the sector, members of the public and the business community. Getting goods to our homes and workplaces in a sustainable way is only going to become more important."

To take part in the consultation, visit tfn-freight.virtual-engage.com. It closes on January 31.