“120 million tonnes of freight are moved in London each year and that is expected to increase by 10 per cent by 2030” says Peter Hendy, the newly appointed Transport Commissioner for London.
Ninety two percent of freight moving to and from London is shipped by road transport, yet many industry experts feel that it is an industry that lies low on the city’s list of priorities.
Speaking at the recent London Freight Summit 2006, Hendy outlined plans for delivering a reliable and sustainable future for freight in London. He said that congestion charging has “consistently reduced vehicle speeds and numbers in London.” But he also said that: “We need to think more strategically about how we use road space.” Hendy felt that a key alternative to the current system is the creation of legal loading and unloading spaces in the city centre, although he admitted that it would take a long time to implement.
In a panel debate discussing alternatives for freight, it was felt that the industry had so far been disregarded or given a low priority. Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) have risen by 35 per cent in five years, according to statistics from the FTA. David Sheppard, deputy head of transport for the John Lewis Partnership, said: “The parking tickets issue is a whole new industry for us.”
In regards to raising the profile of freight, he said: “The three major issues are; the general [public] perception of freight, common policy and understanding where the priorities should be, personal transport, public transport or freight transport.”
One other alternative that was discussed was the option for allowing HGVs to use bus lanes, which were felt often lay empty and were under used. However, Stephen Steele, head of freight unit for Transport for London did not believe the idea would work. He said: “Introducing HGVs into the bus lanes would greatly increase the risk of accidents with cyclists.” He said that even with the ‘corridor approach’, currently being piloted between Victoria and Hackney “you have to be mindful of the safety risks.”
One of the most realistic of options was the introduction of Consolidation Centres for central London, as these have worked in other cities such as Bristol.