Could freight operators face usage-based road charging to deliver into London?

Freight operators delivering into the capital could face a new road-pricing regime that aims to charge higher rates the more time a vehicle spends in a peak congestion zone within the busiest hours of the day.

In a new report released yesterday, London Stalling, the London Assembly’s transport committee called for a complete overhaul of the current congestion charge and proposed a series of measures for TfL to implement to tackle gridlocked steets.

Lib-Dem MP Caroline Pidgeon (pictured), chair of the assembly’s transport committee, said the current congestion charge is “a blunt instrument using old technology that covers a tiny part of London”.

Caroline_Pidgeon“Fundamentally, vehicles should be charged according to their impact on congestion,” she added.

In the short-term it is suggested that the congestion charge is reformed with the flat daily rate replaced with a structure that ensures vehicles in the zone during peak times and spending longer inside it face the highest fees.

In the longer term, the assembly urges the mayor to develop a citywide charging regime, which could potentially replace vehicle excise duty if devolved from central government to London.

Freight focus

Goods vehicles, particularly vans, have been selected as a priority sector to tackle to reduce congestion in London.

The report said the increase in commercial traffic is a result of trends such as the boom in e-commerce and rising levels of construction activity in the city.

Vans make up around 80% of commercial traffic in London and are responsible for the bulk of the recent growth in freight journeys, according to the report: increasing from 3.8 to 4.2 billion km per year since 2012 (11%) as opposed to HGVs that have remained fairly stable at around one billion km per year.

The fact that van growth has outstripped lorry growth is attributed to a surge in London’s population and economy.

The report also suggests restrictions placed on HGVs and booming internet sales are playing a part.

A usage-based road charging scheme is therefore seen as an effective method to encourage operators to “use vehicles more efficiently or switch some deliveries to modes that cause less congestion, including rail, waterways, bicycles and motorcycles”.

transdek-night-timeOther methods to reduce CV traffic include better use of consolidation centres, with their use a requirement of planning permission to encourage take-up or promoted via Business Improvement Districts; and more night-time deliveries, with TfL encouraged to align congestion-busting objectives with the current review of the London Lorry Control Scheme.

Workplace parcel deliveries

Managing personal deliveries to London-based workplaces is also a challenge to overcome, with TfL urged to pilot a ban on such deliveries at its own sites, while making a better business case for the use of Click & Collect facilities at Tube stations and ensure they are open to multiple retailers and freight operators.

Pidgeon said: “Gridlocked London needs to start moving again and tinkering here and there is not going to achieve that. A total rethink about who uses our roads and how is imperative to get the veins and arteries of our great city flowing freely again.”

Operators have no choice

The FTA has responded to today’s announcement with concerns over the complexity of a road pricing scheme and the cost impact on London’s businesses and freight operators.

Questioning the survey of car users in the capital that said more than half were in favour of road charging, Christopher Snelling, FTA head of national & regional policy and public affairs, said: “The Assembly surveyed car drivers to see if they would change behaviour but not commercial operators.

“Unlike car drivers, we don’t operate at a time of our choosing but respond to customers’ requirements – ie the needs of London’s businesses.Christopher Snelling

“If road pricing is not just to be a tax on London it needs to focus on those who have an alternative – mainly the car or taxi user.  Water, rail and cycle logistics can all play a useful role in places but even used to the maximum it does not change the fact that the vast majority of deliveries in London will be made by vans and lorries.”

The FTA welcomed the focus on reforming the London Lorry Control Scheme, as well as the proposals for more consolidation centres and a workplace parking levy.

However, it also challenged the notion that the association of the growth in van use was down to logistics, saying that half of van use is by tradespeople with tools and the surge in the service sector.

Patrick Gallagher, chief executive at retail delivery firm On the dot, said: “Consumers are getting parcels delivered to their offices because not enough retailers are offering feasible alternatives.

“If we want to reduce the pressure on inner city deliveries – in addition to improving the customer experience – we should be giving shoppers the option to select fixed hour delivery time slots that fit with when they’re at home.”

Shared vision

Responding to the calls for action in today’s report, TfL said it welcomed the report and was pleased the assembly’s transport committee shared its commitment to improving London’s road network.

Garrett Emmerson, TfL’s chief operating officer for Surface Transport, said: “We are responding to this challenge by making the most efficient use of our limited space through encouraging walking, cycling and the use of public transport while protecting essential traffic.

CyclingLondonshutterstock“We and the Mayor are also working to tackle congestion by encouraging more efficient deliveries, doubling our bus priority programme and co-ordinating roadworks better.

“We’re also investigating the feasibility of removing the congestion charge exemption for private hire vehicles. We will fully consider this report’s recommendations as part of this wide-ranging work.”

TfL is asked to report back to the London Assembly on a range of the proposals by the end of April.

  • Why not head to Freight in the City Spring Summit on 1 March in Birmingham to find out how cities and the freight sector are working to make urban freight more sustainable. Book your free place today!