Roads minister Andrew Jones MP has backed a call at the Conservative Party conference from online parcel delivery firm Parcel Hero to establish urban freight hubs to reduce the number of trucks entering inner cities by using electric vans to complete deliveries.
Speaking at the debate “A Vision for the Future of our Roads”, at the conference in Manchester in October, a spokesman for Parcel Hero said the Government needed to follow the example set during the 2012 Olympic Games.
“We need to learn the successful lesson of the Olympics when London established freight hubs to slash the number of trucks on the capital’s streets, pooling distribution and allowing quiet evening deliveries.”
Jones, who oversees national freight and logistics policy, responded: “I think there is a strong need for transport freight hubs in our cities and it is something we will be pursuing.”
Parcel Hero explained that, under its plan, trucks would drop off goods at the hub from where electric vans would deliver them “the final mile” by grouping together all the packages for a particular area.
The spokesman said the initiative is based on the Freight Circle service operated in the Dutch towns of Nijmegen and Maastricht where businesses’ and residents’ deliveries are dropped at a central hub before being consolidated and taken to customers’ homes or shops at a time of their choice with unwanted recyclables collected by return.
Freight Circle is supported by the EU-funded project LaMilo (last mile logistics), but Parcel Hero claimed in the UK the scheme could pay for itself by eliminating unnecessary trips – saving businesses both fuel and driver hours.
The spokesman said research by courier firm DHL had found widespread acceptance of out of hours deliveries to cut congestion so long as steps are taken to reduce noise, such as allowing no music from the driver’s cab, no running engines and fitting tyres to trolleys.
However, at a meeting of the London Assembly’s Transport Committee in September, Ian Wainwright, Transport for London’s head of Fleet and Freight, said it was easy to get businesses and van operators to agree to night time deliveries for one off major events, such as the Olympics, but far harder to get them to switch to the practice full time.
Christopher Snelling, head of Urban Logistics at the Freight Transport Association said its members are keen on out of hours deliveries but added they often met opposition from local authorities due to environmental health or planning policy issues.
He also pointed out that if businesses are not open to take night time deliveries “there is nothing the freight operator can do”.