PICTURE OF THE WEEK – Freight in the City – Looking to the Future

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What types of problems and developments are we facing in our large cities in the coming years in relation to congestion, pollution and all the new legal regulations that are coming.

How will transport operators remain compliant, profitable and continue to service the needs of their customers as our main cities continue to grow? Then there’s the related issues such as congestion, air-pollution controls and additional legal regulations, that have to be dealt with also.

Recently the Freight in the City Seminar in London gave some insights into the problems and challenges these transport companies face in the future. All of the major commercial vehicles manufacturers were present, exhibiting vehicles specifically designed for city operations. London has led the way in terms of low-entry cabs, with more all-round vision, which will all lead to safer streets for pedestrians and cyclists. At the event, the organisers said the key to the future is “Sustainable & Safer Transport.”

What is happening in London is important from an Irish point of view, as Dublin faces similar problems as the population grows. All Irish cities and big towns will face congestion on a greater scale than they have in the past. One thing that is important to remember is that all this growth brings opportunity – with business growth potential in the construction industry, the courier/home delivery sector and retail.

Tom Parker, a Senior Planner with the City of London Corporation, stated in a presentation that there are ways to deal with congestion. In his role he talked of the problems that the new construction plans for the British Capital will create. He said he preferred to look at the possible solutions. So rather than hauling out rubble and retuning with aggregates, they have asked builders to recycle and reuse as much as possible to reduce city truck movements. They have for some time being using the railways to transport raw materials into the city and they are now looking to use the River Thames as a new less congested route to get product in. While in Stockholm, Sweden extensive use is being made of the canal system in the city. They have gone almost all the way with night-time deliveries in the city and expect to achieve this in the next three years.

Back to London, Savills Auctioneers & Valuers, during the conference estimated that there will be around 60,000 new homes built in London each year up to 2030. From a home delivery point of view, if each house only gets two home deliveries per week, that would amount to about 1.2 million extra deliveries per week. Now what about all the supermarkets and restaurants that need to be supplied also? A tall order indeed.

Interestingly, a company in Barcelona has come up with a solution that may work or at least go some of the way to help with home deliveries. They have formed alliances with the cyclists that work for Deliveroo and other fast food outlet home delivery providers. By giving them a piece of software for their phone, they arrange to meet them at pre-arranged delivery points in vans. Founded by Alex Tortras, the Kiwi Last Mile company has boosted route productivity and reduced their vehicle fleet. It is their intention to build this initiative as a franchise model and spread it to other European cities.

While there are significant challenges with all of this growth, the optimists see opportunities as there are new and more innovative ways to service cities. As one speaker concluded: “Planning is essential, remember – emotion and reaction leads to bad policy.” Words of wisdom!

Sean Murtagh