In over a decade of scrutinising the Mayor’s transport strategies, the London Assembly Transport Committee has made some excellent recommendations on cycling, walking, the taxi & private hire industries, the underground, overground and buses.
Staying ahead of key issues has been the focus of our work and one growing problem on our roads is set to ignite much discussion in the coming years – which is why we are investigating. Combined with London’s growing population, the increase in vans and their congestion impact on London’s roads is an issue policymakers must grapple with urgently.
According to Department of Transport figures, van use increased by 13 per cent between 2012 and 2014, while HGV numbers have remained the same (see chart below).
During peak hours in London, one in five vehicles on the roads is a van, as opposed to HGVs, which make up roughly 7 per cent of the total number of vehicles – and that trend is expected to continue. Transport for London (TfL) estimates the number of vans on London’s roads will increase by 22% between 2011 and 2031.
- The growth in internet shopping is one obvious cause. Vans often provide the final leg of the journey for goods ordered online.
- The rise in self-employed people could be another, with more UK vans now privately-owned than company-owned.
- Operating restrictions and the costs associated with using HGVs may also provide an explanation.
What can be done?
TfL is developing a strategy to ensure, as far as possible, that deliveries are made by the right vehicle, to the right place, at the right time. This includes encouraging suppliers to use more sustainable modes of transport, particularly for the “last mile” (electric bikes, for example), consolidating deliveries (four London boroughs have recently trialled consolidation centres to reduce urban freight traffic) and retiming deliveries so journeys are not always made at peak times.
While this growth in e-commerce is set to continue, the sector is evolving with the rise of “click and collect” and items like books and DVDs now increasingly being delivered electronically. Analysts – Planet Retail – predict 76 per cent of UK online shoppers will use click and collect by 2017.
But not all vans are used for deliveries. Tradespeople often rely on vans to carry out their day-to-day business. So, how will TfL and local councils help to support these businesses while trying to reduce the ‘vandemonium’?
Where do drones fit into this picture? Amazon and Google have both made their intentions to use drones in the supply chain very clear. While they may help improve delivery networks, particularly if legislation is introduced, the risks attached to them could far outweigh the benefits – as could the costs.
All these issues will be on the table when the Transport Committee begins its investigation into commercial traffic, at a public meeting on the 9th of September.
Do you have strong feelings about this issue? Can you provide a solution? If so, we want to hear from you: email your submission to firstname.lastname@example.org and come along to the meeting on the 9th.