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Completed projects

LHOFT (Liverpool-Humber Optimisation of Freight Transport)

LHOFT aims were to unlock the full potential of the ports and logistics services to better move freight across the north of England.


It is generally accepted that more than 50% of all England’s manufacturing and warehousing activity occurs north of the midlands. However, data from DfT shows that, the majority and ferry and container freight is shipped via ports in the south of England. This implies that freight destined for businesses in the north take the longer and more inefficient north-south land route incurring more cost and delays.

The business opportunity addressed by this project is to make northern businesses more effective and competitive by enabling them to move freight by less costly and more environmentally friendly routes, generating a net reduction in congestion throughout the UK. It is believed that this route is a multi-modal land/rail/sea connection through the northern Ports and across the M62 east-west corridor, connecting the Humber and Liverpool ports. However, to make this happen requires a step-change and the creation of new services that enable seamless multimodal end-to-end connectivity with the required capacity and frequency.



The University of Hull Logistics Institute was instrumental in putting together a powerful, cross-industry consortium representing some of the major organisations that will enable the corridor to be successful. This included freight owners (Nestle, Kraft-Heinz), port operators (ABP), service providers (P&O Ferries, DB Cargo, GB Railfreight), rail and shipping consultants (Oxford Rail, PRB Associates), technology partners (Zipabout) and academic partners (Universities of Hull and Lancaster). The project also engaged extensively with other stakeholders, including Transport for the North (TfN), Northern Powerhouse, local enterprise organisations (LEPs), local councils, hauliers, inland waterway operators, cargo owners, etc.

The LHOFT project ran from November 2017 to January 2021 and was funded by InnovateUK to the value of £1.5million.

A fundamental departure point for the project is that shorter land-based (road) journeys and longer sea bound journeys is beneficial from an environmental, cost and congestion perspective. Therefore it is preferable for northern based suppliers and consumers of goods to import and export through northern ports which are closer to them, even though this may result in longer sea journeys. Also, the use of rail and inland waterways could further reduce congestion and environmental impact resulting from road transport. However, the traditional and established freight routes involve moving goods on the North-South corridors on road to, and from, the larger ports in the south. To change this will require a concerted and coordinated effort by all the stakeholders, which this project aims to facilitate.

LHOFT aims were to unlock the full potential of the ports and logistics services along this corridor to better move freight originating from or destined for the north of England by:

  1. identifying the right type of required logistics services, for example, freight aggregation and sharing services, land/sea connectivity and capacity etc., for a seamless east-west integrated multi-modal freight transportation that move goods away from lengthy land travels through the congested parts of the south of the UK thereby relieving bottlenecks and contributing to the betterment of the environment,

  2. by providing the motivation and incentives for service providers to collaboratively develop and deploy the services if they are not already present through detailed market analysis and profit sharing models;

  3. by providing and testing a basic framework for a cloud based, end-to-end B2B multimodal freight optimisation system (“OFT”) that is built on the database of logistics services catalogued during this project and embeds land, rail, sea connectivity and travel times, key logistics processes and events and the ability to simulate discrete events and uncertainties. The system will be accessible to end-users through a web portal.



The Impact

The project resulted in the development of the first of a kind “OFT” platform that has the potential to play a unique role in facilitating optimisation and collaboration in international freight routes. It contains a unique repository of logistics services (including routes, times, emissions and indicative costs), freight infrastructure (roads, railways, ports, etc) and forecasted demand for logistics routes and services. It has the ability to recommend optimised freight transport routes on a tactical level, identify collaboration opportunities between shippers, and identify and analyse demand for additional logistics services or infrastructure to be developed.

We used this platform to analyse scenarios specifically relating to the Liverpool-Humber corridor, but the platform was developed as a universal model that can be applied to other regions and routes. The intention is for the logistics service and infrastructure data in the database to be geographically expanded over time.

We envisage that OFT will be commercialised to be used internationally by shippers, logistics providers and infrastructure stakeholders to gain deeper understanding of optimised freight movement routes and the optimal structuring and sizing of logistics services and infrastructure. In the short term we will encourage more large, medium and small shippers to enter their freight movement forecasts in OFT, analyse optimal routing and find collaboration opportunities.

Several reports and white-papers were generated as a result of the project. These covered, among others,

During the project a trial was done for a multi-modal train connecting Immingham and the Kraft-Heinz facility at Wigan, which will lead to a significant modal shift of Humber-Liverpool freight traffic from road to rail.


Research at Hull - Accelerating a New Zero Future

Optimisation of Freight and Transport webinar – CILT, November 2020

Introduction to the OFT platform



More Info

For more information, please contact:

Barrie Louw (