New research on the future of freight and deliveries in London


New research, led by the Center for London, explores how to create a smarter and more sustainable freight and logistics ecosystem in the capital.

Deliveries have kept the city going for the past 18 months, with online sales surging sharply. Online shopping accounted for 34.6% of total UK retail sales in February 2021, up from 18.3% in February 2019. Beyond that, the pandemic has also illustrated the importance of infrastructure efficient freight and delivery services, which helps businesses receive the goods and services they need and our utilities to function.

Most of the goods in London travel on its roads, and many of the service providers that people rely on, such as plumbers, are heavy road users. Over 20 percent of London’s road network capacity is occupied by freight and logistics vehicles and this figure has increased over the past decade. Between 2009 and 2019, the number of kilometers traveled by light commercial vehicles (LCVs) increased by 62%, from 2.4 billion to 3.9 billion. This compares to a 17 percent increase in kilometers traveled by cars and taxis over the same period (14.9 billion to 17.5 billion). Transport for London also forecast a 43% increase in kilometers traveled by vans between 2019 and 2041, with a potential ripple effect on traffic congestion and air pollution.

The Center for London believes that now is the time to rethink the mobility of our goods: increased demand for goods and services must not come at the expense of public health and our environment. At the same time, the Center also highlights an opportunity to remove system inefficiencies such as delays caused by traffic.

Research from the Center for London, funded by Prologis UK, Grid Smarter Cities, Impact on Urban Health and the London Borough of Southwark, takes an in-depth look at how goods and services move in our city, how these journeys are changing and their impact on Londoners. . The project will also examine good practices being developed in London and other cities, to provide freight and logistics infrastructure suitable for the 21st century. The Center will issue a final report in the fall of 2021 including recommendations to policymakers, developers, landowners, and freight and logistics companies to create a more efficient and sustainable freight and logistics system in the capital.

Rob Whitehead, Director of Strategic Projects at the Center for London said: “Most of us like having fast, low-cost door-to-door deliveries – and businesses and carriers have worked hard to meet this growing demand. They are also essential for moving food, medicine and other essential items.

“But there is a serious risk that freight vehicles will come to dominate our roads, increasing congestion and contributing to poor air quality.

“We urgently need to find solutions to make the delivery of goods more efficient and sustainable – that’s what the Center for London has set out to do with this new research. “

Robin Woodbridge, Head of Capital Deployment in the United Kingdom, Prologis UK: “The pandemic has accelerated an increase in door-to-door deliveries and levels are unlikely to decline after covid due to the time it returns to people: this means we need to plan for a future where distribution or consolidation centers freight stations are located close to where people live and work. .

“There is a damaging misconception that locating these facilities outside of cities is good for sustainability, reducing traffic and improving air quality: it couldn’t be further from the truth. , in fact, research has shown that the sustainability gains are greater if these installations are located as close as possible to the end consumer. Addressing these misconceptions and encouraging collaboration among key stakeholder groups is one of the main reasons we are supporting this Center for London research. “

Neil Herron, Founder and CEO of Grid Smarter Cities said: “The pandemic has highlighted the importance we all place on the delivery and freight industry to get us the goods we rely on in a timely manner. As the demand for online deliveries continues to grow exponentially; safer, greener and more equitable options are urgently needed to offset the environmental impact.

“Digital sidewalk management solutions for freight, maintenance and delivery will help bring order to sidewalk chaos and dramatically reduce mileage and CO2 emissions on the capital’s roads, while by supporting climate action plans and new sources of income for cities.

“Grid Smarter Cities is proud to support the Center for London in carrying out this important independent research as we embrace and understand the need for industry-specific technological and policy interventions to better manage urban logistics at the curb.

Kate Langford, director of the Impact on Urban Health program on the health effects of air pollution, said: “There is substantial evidence that air pollution disproportionately affects the health of children, the elderly, and those with heart and lung disease. Air pollution also intersects with other systemic causes of poor health, such as unemployment and noise pollution, and therefore has a disproportionate effect on people living in low-income neighborhoods.

“This health inequity has been made more apparent by COVID-19, and a vital step we need to take is to design systems that handle the increase in online shipments and purchases. Residents need to be involved in the design of these new systems, to make sure they protect human health and work for everyone.

Cllr Catherine Rose, Cabinet Member for Transport, Parks and Sports at Southwark Council, said: “Improving air quality is a priority for Southwark Council and understanding how we can better manage the goods and services moving through our borough is a critical part of reducing this. Providing cycling infrastructure, using cargo bikes, safer pedestrian routes and fast charging points for electric vehicles are key goals that help local businesses make positive choices for themselves and their customers. . We are therefore delighted to sponsor this research from the Center for London, which will help us help companies find innovative solutions that offer efficient, low-emission logistics.

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