Transport secretary reveals Lower Thames Crossing route

The chosen route for the Lower Thames Crossing will link the A2 and M25 and generate more than £8bn for the economy, according to transport secretary Chris Grayling.

The new road, which will cost an estimated £4.4bn, will run from the M25 near North Ockendon, cross under the Thames east of Tilbury, and link to the A2 near Shorne.

Grayling said the route chosen for the river crossing was voted for by the majority of 47,000 participants in a public consultation.

The crossing is expected to carry 4.5 million HGVs in it first year, reducing the burden on the congestion-plagued Dartford Crossing.

A further £10m will be spent on improving traffic flow at the Dartford bridge and tunnel.

A DfT spokesman said while the department hopes the road will be open by 2025, it was too soon to say when building work would begin.

He told Freight in the City: “We’re not putting a timescale on it at present because it’s still too early. We’re announcing the location, but the crossing needs more design work and thought on how it will deal with traffic and physically link to the A2.

“Once more of that’s decided and DfT is ready to make its plans public, there will be another public consultation.”

The transport secretary has also earmarked £66m to widen the A13 Stanford-le-Hope bypass from two to three lanes.

This, he said, would create 4,000 new jobs in the area and improve access to the Tilbury and London Gateway ports.

The RHA welcomed the announcement about the new route, but voiced concerns that with rapidly increasing traffic levels, it could be obsolete before it is completed.

Chief executive Richard Burnett said: “The new crossing will have a tremendously positive economic benefit.

“The project will provide thousands of jobs and will give a boost to business across the South East.

“Our main concern is that the anticipated completion date will be 10 years from now. If traffic levels continue to increase at their current levels, the new crossing may be obsolete before it even opens.”

London Ultra Low Emission Zone to start in April 2019

Operators in London will face Sadiq Khan’s Ultra Low Emission Zone fees from April 2019, after the mayor moved forward the zone’s start date.

Khan launched a public consultation into the proposed ULEZ today (4 April), which will see non-Euro-6 HGVs pay a daily fee of £100 to operate in the current congestion charge zone.

Vans that don’t meet Euro-6 requirements will pay the £12.50 charge applied to cars and smaller vehicles.

Khan intends to consult further on expanding the zone’s reach across London. His goal is to expand the ULEZ to nearly all of Greater London, covering everything within the North and South Circular roads for HGVs and coaches by 2020, and all vehicles by 2021.

When the initial ULEZ comes into play in two years’ time, it will replace the £10 T-charge for vehicles that is set to come in this October.

Khan said the proposed ULEZ would make London’s emission standard the toughest in the world. He called on the government to follow his lead and introduce a national scrappage scheme for polluting vehicles, “reform fiscal incentives like vehicle excise duty and pass a Clean Air Act”.

Khan said he wanted to introduce the ULEZ sooner than 2020 shortly after he was elected last year.

RHA chief executive Richard Burnett criticised the move heavily, claiming the charge will put hauliers out of business.

He said: “Of course we all want a cleaner London. But don’t let the Mayor’s quest for clean air turn the nation’s capital into a ghost town.

“The majority of hauliers entering the capital on a regular basis are already using trucks that meet the Euro-6 standard – but many are not.

“They will be facing an additional £24,000 a year in fines. Many will be forced out of business while others will have no alternative but to pass the additional cost on to their customers.”

Fors membership grew 22% in 2016

Fors membership climbed 22% in 2016, totalling more than 4,400.

In its review of 2016, Fors said its number of gold accredited operators rose by 49%, and silver by 69%.

The year also saw the first national Fors conference, and the fourth version of the standard.

It boosted its auditor numbers by a third in order to meet the increase in demand.

Fors director John Hix said: “We’re delighted the scheme is continuing to grow, and we’re particularly proud of the regional growth over the past 12 months.

“As a result, we have increased the number of auditors by 30% to cope with demand from operators across the transport sector – from the ‘man-with-a-van’ through to national parcel delivery fleets.”

He added he was “particularly pleased” with the boost in gold membership, which was made more challenging in the new standard.

The increase, said Hix, “shows real commitment by Fors members to improvements in their operations and in taking steps to implement Fors further throughout their supply chain”.

The report confirmed that membership and audit fees would not be increasing in 2017.

“We believe this is the right thing to do, delivering value to members as they strive to raise standards across their industries,” the report said.

Hix added: “We expect 2017 to be another dynamic year. We will continue to work with our members to raise standards across the industry – to work towards safer, greener and more efficient operations,” said Hix.

New air quality measures could cost UK diesel drivers £20 a day

Diesel vehicle users could be charged up to £20 a day in towns and cities across the UK under new air quality measures expected to be introduced later this week.

Environment secretary Andrea Leadsom is expected to announce the rules, which are believed to include 35 towns and cities.

According to the Sunday Times, the 10 worst-affected cities could see diesel vehicle bans, including private cars and vans, in peak times and/or daily charges for entering the areas.

In the remaining locations it is believed HGVs and coaches will be the main focus of the rule changes.

Local authorities will be expected to implement and regulate the new Defra rules.

A source at Whitehall told The Sunday Times: “There will be different ways of proceeding for different authorities. This is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Some need a tweak, some need more rigid plans.”

In London, Sadiq Khan is expected to officially announce this week that in addition to the new T Charge taking effect in October, the most polluting vehicles will need to pay a daily charge of £12.50 to enter Greater London as of 2019.

Dover MP Charlie Elphicke said it was “wrong to demonise diesel drivers”.

He added: “Many drivers feel they were encouraged to buy diesel by the last Labour government. Punishing them with extra taxes is deeply unfair.”

Hermes to run electric Mercedes-Benz vans in German cities

Hermes is to work with Mercedes-Benz to roll out electric delivery vehicles in urban areas across Germany.

A new strategic partnership will see Hermes deploy battery-powered Mercedes Vito and Sprinter vans in Hamburg and Stuttgart, with a pilot scheme expected in early 2018.

The parcel delivery firm intends to have rolled out 1,500 electric vans by the end of 2020.

Volker Morninweg, head of vans at Mercedes, said electric technology was key to urban transport and that it was important for final-mile deliveries to become more efficient.

He said: “Last year, we announced that we will put a Mercedes-Benz electric van into series production again; our first one was in 2011.

“We are proud that we can already announce that Hermes will be our first customer – and with a significant number of vehicles at that. This is a specific implementation of our plans for tailored industry solutions in co-operation with our customers.”

Frank Rausch, CEO of Hermes Germany, said: “Electric mobility plays a key role as part of our long-term strategy for climate and environmental protection.

“With this in mind, we are continuing along the path of sustainably renewing our fleet of vehicles. The strategic partnership with Mercedes-Benz is another milestone in this process.”

Last April Hermes announced it was to take part in a 12-month trial of battery-operated, light duty trucks in the city of Stuttgart.

Last September, Mercedes-Benz released a prototype for its Vision Van; an electric vehicle with automated cargo management and drone launch pads (pictured).

Mornhinweg said: “With the Vision Van we are presenting the intelligent, clean and fully interconnected van of the future.

“The Vision Van integrates many concrete concepts for future delivery operations in the urban environment.”

Select committees combine to scrutinise government air quality policies

Pressure is mounting on the government to tackle urban pollution as the 24 April deadline for its new clean air bill approaches.

Four select committees have joined forces to examine the government’s plans to tackle urban pollution hot spots, including the significance of vehicle emissions, and to consider evidence of the health and environmental impacts it can have.

The committees involved are the Transport Committee, Health Committee, Environmental Food and Rural Affairs Committee and the Environmental Audit Committee.

The move comes after the government lost two court cases regarding its plans for addressing the UK’s nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels, which resulted in orders from the High Court and the EC to clean up its act.

The combined committees will examine whether the government’s latest plans to tackle NO2 meet the standards set out in these requirements over the course of four evidence sessions.

Louise Ellman, chairwoman of the Transport Committee, said: “The UK economy depends on an efficient and flexible transport system, but emissions from vehicles are a significant problem and the standards that governments have relied on have not delivered the expected reductions.

“We will be asking what more can be done to increase the use of cleaner vehicles as well as to encourage the use of sustainable modes of transport.”

Direct Vision standard could see half of HGVs in London banned by 2024

TfL has estimated that half of the HGVs operating in London will be banned from the city by 2024 under the Direct Vision Standard, according to the RHA.

The trade association said that during a meeting today (17 March) TfL  estimated that of the 188,000 HGVs that currently operate in London, 35,000 would be banned by 2020, rising to 94,000 by 2024.

TfL added that it could not yet say which vehicles would be included in the ban.

The standard, first announced last September, will assign HGVs star ratings based on in-cab visibility. Only those with the highest rating would be allowed to enter London when the proposed standard takes full effect in 2024.

At a Clocs progress event earlier this week (14 March) TfL programme manager Hannah White urged operators to have their say on Direct Vision in the ongoing consultation, which closes on 18 April.

“It’s not a done deal,” she said. “It’s what the mayor is proposing, and it’s important that we have the input from everyone in this room and elsewhere so that we can make it as workable as possible.”

The RHA has expressed concern over the estimated number of affected vehicles, and suggested a conflict with new Ultra Low Emission Zone legislation coming into force as early as 2019.

Chief executive Richard Burnett said: “It’s impossible for a haulier to buy a vehicle that complies with TfL standards – as no vehicle has been assessed against any standard. It is absurd to expect businesses to invest many tens of thousands of pounds in new, clean Euro-6 vehicles only to have them banned by TfL in a little over two years’ time.”

TfL queried the RHA’s figures from the meeting, but did not respond to requests for further information.

Majority of waste sites suitable for low entry vehicles says Aecom

More than two thirds of waste sites could be suitable for HGVs with low entry cabs, according to research by Aecom.

Aecom conducted a virtual assessment of 1,848 landfill, waste transfer and waste treatment sites in the south east of England.

Of these, Aecom found 1,190, or 64%, of the assessed sites would be suitable for low entry vehicles.

The long-term aim of the TfL-commissioned work is to build a directory of sites that operators can refer to in order to check the suitability of vehicles for a job.

Aecom designed assessment criteria against which sites can be examined for vehicle suitability.

Based around four key areas, the criteria considers height/depth of ruts/bumps on the site; approach angles for vehicles; the material the vehicle will drive over and how weather conditions will affect traction; water on the site and what it might cover.

Presenting the findings at the Clocs Conference and Exhibition yesterday, Aecom associate Jo Edwards told delegates the research was currently focused on waste sites, but would look to include general construction sites in the future.

The next step was to trial vehicles on the sites to confirm its findings, she said.

“Our assessment criteria is theoretical so we need to conduct some vehicle trials to validate the assessment criteria.”

She called for more clarity from manufactures on vehicles’ suitability for different jobs.

She said: “There’s so many variants on a theme, there are so many makes and models of vehicles, and it’s difficult to choose the right tools for the job. There’s some work still to go to demystify which truck can do which job, so we can make informed choices.”

Live from the Clocs Conference and Exhibition 2017

Now in its fourth year, the Clocs Conference and Exhibition is one of the leading showcase events for urban vehicle safety. Freight in the City reports live from the event at London’s ExCel.

RHA says Oxford zero emission zone is “unworkable”

A proposed zero emission zone that would see all petrol and diesel vehicles removed from Oxford city centre is “unworkable”, according to the RHA.

A £30,000 study into the feasibility of the zone was launched on 10 March. If successful, Oxford City Council said the scheme could be in place as early as 2020.

RHA regional operations manager for the West Midlands, Rhys Williams, told he was concerned the idea had not been properly thought through.

He said: “They spent millions on a flagship shopping centre and lured the likes of John Lewis. These stores need to be serviced. How do we get 26 pallets of freight [at a time] into them? They haven’t put any thought into the process.

“There’s an awful lot of consultation that needs to be had, and it concerns me, whether they’ll have it or whether they’ll just slap this diesel ban on immediately.”

Councillor John Tanner, Oxford City Council executive board member for a clean and green Oxford, said: “Air pollution has a significant impact on the health of residents and visitors to Oxford. Our vision is to create a city centre that people can live and work in without worrying about how vehicle emissions will impact on their health.”

Williams added that operating without diesel vehicles was not something the industry was opposed to, but it was not ready for it yet.

“It’s obviously a goal that we as an industry would love to see, but the technology just isn’t there at the moment. So what’s going to happen until we get there? We need to be real and sensible about it,” he said.