With the number of parcels delivered in London expected to double by 2030, a new report by Centre for London has outlined how to make deliveries and freight journeys in the UK capital more sustainable and efficient.
The proposals include introducing 10,000 pick-up points and lockers for parcel deliveries, new mayoral powers to incentivise deliveries to pick-up points instead of homes, and prioritising delivery and servicing vehicles under a London-wide pay-per-mile road user charging scheme.
Nicolas Bosetti, head of data and insight, at Centre for London, said: “Londoners may like the convenience of doorstep deliveries but the way we currently move most of our goods comes at a high cost for our health, climate and for the businesses and workers who need to use our roads to get around.
“Many delivery companies already have plans to make their journeys more sustainable, but we need to encourage them to deliver to and from fewer places and support more of them to switch to cleaner vehicles. This means creating space for pick up points, consolidation centres and electric vehicle charging points.
“They won’t be able to do this alone. The mayor of London and London’s boroughs need to take action to make freight journeys as green and clean as possible, alongside serious investment from the government too.”
The report highlights the environmental impact of existing delivery methods and states that most goods and services are moved by diesel and petrol vans, which reportedly contribute up to a quarter of London’s carbon emissions and PM2.5 emissions from transport. And fuelled by the deliveries boom during the pandemic, diesel van sales in the UK were up 82% in the year to March 2021, while petrol van sales increased twofold over the same period.
The report argues that consumers need to change their behaviour, but businesses, national and local government must also act to reduce the number of polluting van and lorry journeys at all stages of the delivery process.
It calls on the Mayor of London to work with parcel delivery companies to put 90% of Londoners within 250m of a universal parcel pick-up/drop-off point by 2025, equivalent to installing 10,000 in-store pick-up points or lockers across the city. According to Centre for London, only 17% of parcels are delivered this way in London at present, despite pick-up options generally being cheaper than home deliveries.
Thus, the report argues that introducing more of these pick-up points would allow companies to deliver large numbers of parcels at once to fewer locations, reducing vehicle traffic on the roads, and the knock-on-effect on air pollution and congestion. It could also mean that Londoners receive their parcels the first time they’re delivered: an estimated 60% of untimed home deliveries end in failure, and redeliveries increase van traffic on the roads.
The report also recommends that the Mayor of London is given new powers to incentivise Londoners to use pick-up/drop-off locations. This could include an online sales tax for at-home deliveries, which could also encourage delivery companies to set up more pick-up/drop-off locations across the city.
The report also calls on the mayor to introduce a pay-per-mile road user charging scheme that could give priority to delivery and servicing vehicles. This could help to cut congestion, save time and money for drivers and businesses, and reduce the number of private car trips.
The report welcomes the recent extension to the Ultra Low Emission Zone but highlights that many diesel and petrol vans are already compliant with the scheme standards so don’t have to pay the fine.
Alongside the shift to EVs, forecasts suggest that at least 4,000 rapid charging points will be needed in London by 2025, an 800% increase from the 500 in the city at the end of 2020. The report argues that national government should fund the installation of charging facilities at commercial properties such as consolidation centres, and invest in reactivating London’s piers, wharves and rail-road interchanges as viable alternatives to van and lorry journeys on London’s roads.
The report also highlights how a shortage of land available for logistics in central London can increase the distance that vans have to travel. It calls for the mayor to work with local authorities to ensure space is available for logistics hubs where delivery companies can consolidate deliveries.
The report also suggests that London boroughs should also embrace dynamic kerb management to give delivery vehicles reliable access to space for loading and unloading, and avoid unnecessary additional driving.