Major infrastructure changes are needed to relieve the UK’s supply chain struggles and prevent similar crises in the future, the government’s logistics tsar has reportedly cautioned.
Former Tesco boss Sir Dave Lewis said that the “seismic move in consumer shopping habits… Together with a global shipping challenge, has shown the pressure on our existing supply chain infrastructure”.
“The opportunity to step back and strategically consider infrastructure options which reflect the changing consumption habits of the population, the decarbonisation agenda and the need to enhance supply chain capacity and resilience is very real,” he wrote in an email seen by Sky News.
Lewis, who has been appointed by prime minister Boris Johnson to conduct a three-month review of the UK’s supply chain health, is looking to “future proof” the country’s logistics infrastructure.
The collision of the pandemic and Brexit has put vast pressure on traditional routes and practices, which has prompted an increasing number of businesses to bring their distribution hubs closer to home – as warehouse deals hit a record high.
A shortage of HGV drivers has inflated the issue, triggering huge queues at petrol stations across the country in the autumn.
The summer ‘pingdemic’, as well as staff shortages as a result of the country’s latest wave of Covid-19 has also fanned the fire.
Meanwhile, the country’s new shopping habits – which has seen record surges in e-commerce has piled on the pressure for suppliers and hauliers.
“Obviously we are all critically aware that the Omicron wave puts this work under new pressure,” explained Lewis.
“Key sectors appear to have good contingency plans in place but the situation is changing very rapidly so we need to plan for the worst and hope for the best.”
Lewis advised the government to speed up the licensing of lorry drivers in a bid to ease the issue in the immediate term.
The logistics tsar added that action should be taken to “enhance the capacity and resilience of the supply chain in rapid order”, with visible work being done in the first quarter of next year.
A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “We are grateful for Sir Dave Lewis’s support and advice as the government works with businesses to manage supply chain challenges. This work, to enhance the resilience of UK supply chains, will continue into the New Year.”