When someone promises to demonstrate the “future for city centre deliveries” even the most cynical of us has to take notice. Which is why, in the summer of 2004, I found myself in a rather small, non-descript warehouse on the outskirts of Bristol. It was in these unremarkable surroundings that the Broadmead Freight Consolidation Scheme first saw the light of day.
Even then, the concept of “city logistics” was far from new, but the Broadmead scheme was certainly a UK trailblazer in bringing together a group of retailers along with a logistics operator and with the support of the local authority.
The system is very simple: the retailers deliver to the distribution centre on the edge of the city, goods are consolidated and one vehicle delivers to a group of stores.
And it has stood the test of time – six years later it is still running.
What is surprising is that there are not more such schemes. A new report by Transport & Travel Research for the Department for Transport shows that there are significant social and environmental benefits including cuts in CO2 emissions of up to 55 per cent, and cuts in traffic congestion.
In fact, the researchers could only identify eight such schemes in the retail sector plus a number in the construction industry.
Of course, not everyone can get a significant benefit. There is little value for a retailer that is already operating an efficient logistics system delivering high volumes of goods to each store. And cost is certainly an issue – the economics can be pretty marginal and the report suggests that some voluntary schemes might need ongoing local authority support to be viable.
Nevertheless, there are some real opportunities available, and the pressure to develop more environmentally friendly supply chains is bound to encourage planners to look again at consolidation schemes. Perhaps this is an idea whose time is just about to come.
Malory Davies FCILT,