Worth the Weight: Making London’s deliveries greener and smarter

Freight and deliveries are central to the economy of cities, like London, but at present they are unsustainable forms of transport that contribute to air pollution, negatively affecting the wellbeing and quality of life of citizens as well as the environment. This resource offers recommendations of how to transition to a more sustainable freight and delivery system, based on extensive research of academic papers, policy reports, air pollution data, and interviews with delivery experts in London.

Date added 17 November 2021
Last updated 18 November 2021

Covid-19 and Brexit have emphasised the importance of freight in England, and timely deliveries are central to the economy of London. However, most freight is moved through road transport and heavy polluting vehicles. This poses significant problems to air pollution and carbon emissions, road safety, and congestion.

This study analyses freight vehicle movements across the most freight-heavy sectors: parcel deliveries, food, construction, servicing, and waste and reuse. It analyses efforts already in place in London as well as a series of recommendations of how these can be taken further.

London is responding to the challenges presented by freight through the creation of different policies and funding streams. These include: London Lorry Control Scheme, Congestion charge, Ultra Low Emission Zone, Electric vehicle charging, Support for businesses to consolidate deliveries, Encouraging river and rail freight, etc. However, this study highlights that although this is very positive, it is rather challenging as it requires an understanding of the interactions between different interventions, as well as coordination for all the actors involved in these initiatives and measures.

Recommendations for further action suggested in this study include:

- To prioritise deliveries (e.g. using quiet road vehicles to deliver by night)

- To deliver to and from the right places (e.g. through pick-up and drop-off points)

- To deliver in the right way (e.g. shifting to electric vehicles)

- To consolidate deliveries (e.g. in certain high streets)

- Including other stakeholders beyond central government (e.g. working with local authorities, BIDs, and commercial landlords).

Although this study and recommendations are specific to the characteristics of the freight and delivery situation in London, where there are narrow streets, high density urban spaces, road pricing, parking restrictions, etc. some of the recommendations can be applicable to other geographical contexts.

This report uses case studies to illustrate different problems and possible solutions. Case studies in this regard include: making on-street loading more reliable, consolidation of deliveries to cut vehicle trips, or night-time delivery pilot to reduce journey times and pollution.