Transport for London explores options to boost road capacity through more strategic freight journeys

Transport for London (TfL) hopes to increase capacity on London’s road network by encouraging the use of freight consolidation centres and urging the retiming of deliveries to commercial and domestic premises.

Paul Strang, TfL’s senior strategy and planning manager (freight and fleet), told delegates at this week’s Westminster Energy, Environment & Transport Forum UK freight policy seminar that TfL is looking at ways of reducing the freight sector’s demand for the road network as the city’s population grows.

Strang said 90% of goods being moved in the capital are done so using the road network, with few operators taking advantage of rail and water.

“Almost a third, 29%, of central London morning traffic relates to goods vehicles, so HGVs or vans, which disproportionally peaks in the morning when the roads are perhaps least able to cope with it,” he said. “When you look at the whole day [freight’s share of the traffic] becomes around 16- 17%.”

Like most cities across the UK, London has seen an increase in the number of vans on its roads and Strang expects this to continue over the next decade. HGV numbers, however, are not expected to grow.

Strang suggested there was an opportunity to better utilise the rail and river networks, but said reducing the “frustration” of missed deliveries was at the other end of the spectrum.

He added: “Maybe the solution is specifying larger sizes of letterboxes and retiming deliveries to domestic premises.

“It’s not about reducing the amount of stuff we buy, but how we can get that same amount of stuff delivered in fewer road kilometres.”

Strang added that the capital’s existing consolidation centres had been a success in taking goods vehicle traffic off the road. However, he questioned how TfL would be able to develop enough of them to take the necessary amount of road trips out of the network.

He said: “London’s a rapidly growing city…it will grow by a further 1.7m people by 2030. In terms of scale, that’s equivalent to adding cities the size of Birmingham and Leeds to what is already London’s biggest population.

“We want our freight strategy to balance these two things off. We need to look at how we get goods and services delivered in the city at a fair cost to consumers.”