UK cities face food and drink “logistics crisis”

London and other major UK cities face a looming food and drink “logistics crisis” unless operators and planning authorities take steps to address the problems facing the delivery sector, according to a new report commissioned by the UK Warehousing Association (UKWA).

‘Feeding London 2030’ warns that, if not addressed now, the issues raised could even lead to a shortage of essential food supplies on the shelves of grocery retailers and at other food outlets.

UKWA chief executive Peter Ward said: “What we have today is not sustainable. The last time bread disappeared from the shelves was during the tanker drivers’ strike [in 2000] and then we were not far from anarchy.”

London in particular is facing significant population growth, from its present 9 million to a predicted 11 million by 2050, putting increasing pressure on the logistics industry to deliver essential supplies.

“Things are becoming stretched across London’s food and drink supply chains and current logistics thinking is no longer fit for purpose,” warned Andrew Morgan, a director of research firm Global 78 and the report’s lead author.

“Supplying food and drink that is both safe and delivered on time to London’s retail and food service outlets at an appropriate cost will become increasingly difficult unless steps are taken to address the issues highlighted in the report. At the moment we are managing, but it is difficult to see how it can carry on – especially if we are to meet the mayor’s policies on congestion and air quality.”

  • ‘Feeding London 2030’ is available from UKWA price £790 for non-UKWA members and £395 for members.

Registration open for Freight in the City Birmingham on 1 March

Registrations have now opened for the ‘Freight in the City Spring Summit: Improving the last mile’ on 1 March at Edgbaston Stadium, Birmingham.

This free-to-attend summit will focus on the need to think differently about how cities, businesses and operators approach last-mile deliveries to reduce freight’s impact on urban areas.

You’ll hear from major cities such as Birmingham, Manchester and Southampton about the challenges they’ve faced to mitigate the impact of essential goods deliveries to businesses and residents in urban areas.

These include mandated clean air zones that need to be in place by 2020, as well as a need to reduce conflict between goods vehicles and vulnerable users, and finding ways to tackle congestion on key routes into and around cities.

Leading researcher Laetitia Dablanc will share urban logistics best practice across Europe, complemented by seminars from major operators such as UPS and Meachers Global Logistics on their work to make inner city deliveries more sustainable.

Delegates will also take a look at some of the latest technology and delivery methods emerging to the marketplace, as well as the potential of modal switch to water, rail or bicycle for relieving pressure on the roads network.

There will also be the opportunity to ask questions via a lively panel debate on the challenge of persuading consumers to accept more sustainable methods of receiving their online purchases.

“This really is a must-attend event for local authorities, businesses and freight operators to learn from their peers about more sustainable ways to handle last-mile deliveries, demonstrating how cities and industry have worked collaboratively to ensure freight journeys are cleaner, safer and quieter,” said Hayley Pink, Freight in the City editor.

The spring summit is supported by the Urban Transport Group (UTG) and Transport for West Midlands.

Jonathan Bray, UTG director, said: “Getting last-mile logistics right forms part of a much wider debate about what kind of cities we want to live in and how we want them to look and feel.

“This conference presents a great opportunity to explore innovative solutions that enable last-mile journeys to be completed as safely, unobtrusively and with as little environmental impact as possible.”

  • Reserve your place now and browse through the speakers and exhibitors taking part, or to check out the organisations already signed up to attend.

Viewpoint: the potential of rail freight in addressing urban air quality and congestion

Philippa Edmunds, manager at Freight on Rail, Campaign for Better Transport and vice-president at Transport & Environment, Brussels, tells Freight in the City why rail should play an integral role in bringing goods into the UK’s urban conurbations.

Changes in urban logistics policy as a result of air pollution violations, road congestion, the growing awareness of cycling safety as well as devolution, favour rail.  philippaedmundsfreightonrail


Because rail offers the safer, more sustainable long-distance trunk haulage element of the journey between conurbations and ports, which reduces road congestion.

Consumer goods can then be transhipped into low-emission vehicles, as long as consolidation centres and terminals are rail connected.

Already, a quarter of containers imported into England are transported long distance by rail with constant demand for more services from shippers.

Rail currently brings in 40% of London’s aggregates and could bring in more construction materials if there were more terminals in London, for example; each train can carry enough materials to build 30 houses.

Both Crossrail and the Olympic Committee used rail freight to bring in materials and remove industrial spoil.

Two night-time trials bringing freight trains into Euston showed passenger rail terminals could and should be used to bring in trainloads of freight into the heart of cities at night for onward transportation in low-emission vehicles; each of these consumer trains can remove 77 HGVs.

Why do we need to transfer freight to rail?

Because rail produces 90% less particulates and 15 times less NOX than trucks, which are key contributors to air pollution.

Rail freight additionally produces 76% less CO2 emissions than the equivalent HGV journey.

And rail freight is safer; HGVs have been six times more likely than cars to be involved in fatal collisions on urban roads over the past three years (based on the percentage of miles they represent).

Road and rail complement each other, with rail offering a low-emission, safer alternative to HGVs that helps alleviate road congestion – so each mode should play to their strengths as part of integrated freight policy.

Therefore city and local authorities, such as TfL and Transport for Greater Manchester, need to promote and support rail freight in their transport strategies by safeguarding suitable sites for intermodal terminals so that road/rail transfer stations get planning permission.

Edmunds manages the Freight on Rail campaign, a partnership between the rail freight industry, the transport trade unions and Campaign for Better Transport, working to promote the socio-economic benefits of rail freight to national, devolved and local government as well as European institutions.



Manchester freight and logistics forum poised for action

Transport for Greater Manchester’s (TfGM) new freight and logistics forum will go live next month, with a city centre launch event taking place on 16 September at MacDonald Hotel.

The forum will act as a collaborative platform for the logistics industry and the public sector to identify new opportunities for efficiency and share best practice on safe and sustainable freight movements.

Its agenda is to be set by industry, with an introductory meeting held earlier this year helping to identify key freight sector challenges to address.

Helen Smith, head of logistics and environment at TfGM, said: “Our aim in Greater Manchester is to create a world class transport network that supports sustainable economic growth and access to opportunity. We recognise the invaluable contribution that the freight and logistics industry can make in achieving this vision.”

She added that the forum will enable freight transport to fulfill its potential for driving economic growth, whilst ensuring that this growth is “environmentally and socially sustainable”.

The launch event will feature a range of speakers in the morning, setting out how they see the future of freight and logistics in the region, including: a keynote speech by the mayor of Greater Manchester, Tony Lloyd; a session on opportunities for growth within the Northern Powerhouse and how freight fits into the wider Transport for the North strategy; and operator DHL Supply Chain speaking about Manchester Airport.

This will be followed by a series of workshops in the afternoon exploring themes such as consolidation, alternative fuels, retiming deliveries and modal shift.

A panel discussion about key logistical issues across the region will round off the day.

Anyone interested in finding out more about the forum, can email



IME calls for national multimodal strategy to tackle congestion and air quality

The government urgently needs to create a national multimodal strategy to reduce congestion, improve air quality and boost the economy, according to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IME).

In its report published this week – UK freight: in for the long haul – the IME argues that a multimodal freight strategy is necessary to ensure more efficient use of national infrastructure.

Philippa Oldham, IME transport head, explained: “We currently have empty lorries on our roads, delivering shipping cargo to ports where demand for goods is on the other side of the country.

“And [we have] to wait for air cargo to undergo approval tests in other counties before being allowed to be processed through customs,” she said.

The IME said estimates put the cost of congestion to the UK economy at £13bn per year, with poor air quality being responsible for about 29,000 premature deaths each year.

“A national strategy which looks at the entire range of transport methods used to deliver freight would have the potential to ease congestion, improve air quality and boost the economy,” Oldham added.

According to the report, up to 30% of all haulage vehicles on UK roads are empty with trucks travelling around  150 million miles unnecessarily.

It argues that a national strategy could ensure better use of urban consolidation centres to organise joint local deliveries, greater ‘horizontal’ collaboration between operators to reduce empty running and wider use of online vehicle load brokerages.

The report added: “It is fully understood that the need for logistics companies to share data openly will cause concerns over competitiveness and commercial sensitivity,” suggesting intermediaries such as Network Rail could manage the data.

The IME also questions why, when 65% of the UK population lives within a 150-mile radius of Liverpool Port, 91% of the UK’s deep-sea goods enter or leave via either Southampton or Felixstowe. 

“It is estimated to equate to 150 million wasted road miles, 200,000 additional truck journeys ― increasing road congestion ― and creates about 0.2 million tonnes of unnecessary CO2 emissions from moving goods to where they are needed,” the report said.


However, both the FTA and RHA attacked IME’s claim that up to 30% of all haulage vehicles on UK roads are empty – pointing out that the figure includes petrol and milk tankers, which can’t be back-loaded with anything else.

Regarding the claim of wasted lorry miles, FTA’s head of national and regional policy, Christopher Snelling, said: “These deep sea ships will call at south-east UK ports as one call out of six or seven in the northern European sea corridor – that is northern France through to the Baltic.

“There is no prospect of them diverting en masse to north-west England. There are many great opportunities for maximising the use of ports like Liverpool for the UK supply chain, but for the IME to suggest in isolation that these road miles are simply done without need, is misleading.”



Greater Manchester freight forum builds momentum

Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) has taken the first steps towards creating the city region’s first-ever freight forum.

Last month it hosted a workshop to find out what challenges logistics firms faced when operating across the 10-district region, and to define the sector’s role in Manchester’s economic growth plans.

Helen Smith, head of logistics and environment at TfGM, said it was “an exciting time” for the region bringing opportunities for operators through projects like the Atlantic Gateway, as well as devolution giving Manchester more control over road and infrastructure investment.

Paul Davison, principal consultant at Aecom, which will head up the new forum, said the group would be “truly representative” of the industry, drawing together businesses from across the whole supply chain and the public sector.

“We are ambitious about what this forum can achieve,” he added. “We want to be at the vanguard of doing things that might not have been tried before, or in a different way. We don’t just want quick wins; we want it to really have an impact.”

Themes raised on the day included tackling congestion at key pinch points such as Manchester Airport; ensuring HGV compliance standards aligned with those in other cities; helping operators to obtain customer buy-in for changing delivery habits; and ensuring the right balance between carrot and stick when it came to implementing new rules for freight.

A proposal was put forward on the day to use of the city’s tram network to transport freight by adapting existing rolling stock. A similar trial was carried out in Amsterdam during 2007/08 which brought goods into the city centre and brought out waste paper as a backload. Each converted tram could carry the equivalent of four 7.5-tonne trucks.

Modal shift away from road, out-of-hours deliveries, consolidation centres, and the use of Delivery Servicing Plans and construction logistics plans to mitigate the impact of building sites were also being encouraged.

Smith added: “We absolutely want to get this right. We want the forum to be really worthwhile and make a difference on the ground.”

The forum will be officially launched in September and operators are encouraged to get involved now in shaping its agenda:



FTA calls for new London mayor to embrace logistics industry

The FTA has urged the new mayor of London to understand the importance of the logistics sector when setting out their new policy agenda for the capital’s growth.

In its Freight Manifesto for London, the FTA examines key issues such as airport expansion, the Ultra Low Emission Zone and road infrastructure and calls on the new mayor to work collaboratively with operators rather than simply introduce headline-grabbing measures.

Christopher Snelling, FTA’s Head of National & Regional Policy and Public Affairs, said: “We would like the new London mayor and Assembly to work with the logistics industry. Our Manifesto sets out how we can help to deliver a stronger London, a cleaner London but also a safer London.

“These things can be done but they are best done through intelligently working together, not through simplistic measures that just make good headlines,” he added.

The FTA said London’s people and businesses require more than 360,000 tonnes of goods to be supplied by lorry each day. That’s 15,000 tonnes picked up or dropped off each hour, or 250 tonnes every minute; as this figure excludes vans and other modes, it is only a part of what freight delivers.

London’s mayor is expected to be announced later today.





Could Clocs become national standard for work-related road risk?

The backers of the voluntary safety scheme for the construction sector, Clocs, believe it can become the national standard for safer urban HGV movements and build on the lessons learnt during three years of operation in London.

These ambitions were outlined at the fifth Clocs progress event (pictured), which took place at London’s ExCel last month. Hundreds of visitors went along to view nearly 30 new or adapted trucks featuring enhanced driver visibility and an array of vulnerable road-user detection devices.

TfL commissioner Mike Brown said: “We need to work with other parts of the UK to ensure Clocs becomes the national standard for work-related road risk. Not because we think arrogantly that we get everything right in London, but just because it’s got to be better to not create a new system if we’ve leaned the lessons and already have some best practice in place.”

Brown’s comments were echoed by construction sector trade association Build UK, which described Clocs as a clear example of best practice it believed all its members should embrace – it represents 11,500 specialist building contractors.

Build UK chief executive Susannah Nichol said that like hauliers, construction firms do not want different standards in different places and while there is “such a clear standard of best practice set by Clocs, this is one of those times when it is really easy to get everyone heading in the same direction”.

Andy Salter, MD of Freightinthecity’s publisher Road Transport Media, chaired the event and urged other major cities to keep things streamlined for hauliers and to stick to a tried- and-tested approach.

“If we’re going to have cycle-friendly trucks, the last thing operators need is a plethora of different and potentially conflicting standards,” he said. “What’s needed is one standard and one standard alone. We’re convinced that TfL’s Clocs template is the perfect model for broader application across the country.”

Glen Davies, programme manager at Clocs, praised the industry for its efforts in raising the profile of work-related road risk and bringing new vehicles to market. “We have done fantastically and [this Clocs progress event] is testament to where we’ve moved in the past couple of years,” he said.

TfL now plans to appoint a new administrative body to run the scheme and expand its reach nationally and into other sectors.

Clocs, TfL said, will remain industry-led and its ambition is to make it part of the day-to-day business in the construction sector.

TfL added that it has committed £8m a year to funding its freight programmes, such as the Safer Trucks scheme, which it believes will accelerate the uptake of vehicles designed via Clocs.

Freight in the City Spring Summit: North of England operators could reap £16.2bn in efficiency gains

The logistics sector in the North of England could reap £16.2bn in efficiency gains if recommendations made in the draft Transport for the North (TftN) Freight & Logistics Strategy come to fruition.

Speaking at today’s (3 March) Freight in the City Spring Summit: Driving Growth in the North, Chris Rowland, MD at MDS Transmodal and co-author of the report, highlighted the crucial areas of investment needed to help logistics firms play their part in delivering the government’s economic growth plans for the northern powerhouse.

Looking at growth projections through to 2033, the first-ever pan-regional freight study in the UK aims to produce a public sector strategy for a predominantly private-run industry.

The report urges the government to invest in better highways connectivity from the east to the west of the region, improve cost-effective access into the North, and calls for improvements on key routes.

These include the notoriously busy M60  – “we calculated another lane will be required purely for freight,” said Rowland – as well as the potential for a new Trans-Pennine route from east Manchester to Sheffield and better access to ports.Keyline_Econic

More investment in rail and waterways would also be a key driver of growth, said Rowland, with the public sector encouraged to take a more strategic approach to land use to enable the private sector to invest in a network of multimodal distribution parks, as well as ensuring enough rail capacity is available ahead of demand.

“One of the key messages is: what can the public sector do to change the environment so that the private sector will invest?” said Rowland.


FTA: Multimodal strategy is key to connectivity in the north

The FTA has said a strong focus on multimodal infrastructure is vital in the development of a new freight strategy for the north of England.

Plans are currently well underway in the creation of the new freight vision for the Northern Powerhouse region by Transport for the North, which last month brought together industry stakeholders to gain feedback on its work to date.

FTA head of policy for the north Malcolm Bingham said: “It is important for our members that freight and logistics have a say in the development of freight routes in the approach taken by the Northern Powerhouse.”

He added: “The freight and logistics strategy currently being developed by Transport for the North is at an important stage which shows there is a need to improve a multimodal approach – road, rail and water – on east-west routes connecting ports to the economic centres of the north of England.”

Bingham will be taking part in a topical debate about the infrastructure needs for the freight sector at the Freight in the City Spring Summit at Manchester Central on 3 March.

The free-to-attend event will focus on what the government’s strategy for creating a Northern Powerhouse means for the freight industry and its customers. It will also examine how local government and city region authorities can benefit from including freight strategies in their growth plans.

Delegates at Freight in the City will also be able to find out more about the Transport for the North freight strategy from the author of the report Chris Rowland, MD at MDS Transmodal.

Make sure you register today to join 300 of your industry peers at this must-attend event.