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Report calls for the ‘greening’ of urban freight

Deniz Huseyin
27 January 2022

 

The ‘greening’ of urban freight must be central to net zero strategies to enable a modal shift from road to rail and water, says a new report by the Urban Transport Group.

The report, Delivering a greener future, notes that road freight – which currently accounts for almost 80% of goods moved in Great Britain – brings many negative impacts for cities, such as carbon emissions, air pollution, congestion, damage to highway infrastructure and noise, and threatens road safety.  

In 2019, transport accounted for 27% of the UK’s domestic greenhouse gas emissions, making it the largest emitting sector, says the report, adding that, 16% or transport emissions was from heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) and 16% from light goods vehicles (LGVs).

Innovations are available to make freight operations safer, more sustainable, quieter and more efficient, says the report. Solutions include the conversion of passenger trains to support high speed parcel delivery to city centres; the use of riverboat services to deliver medical supplies to the NHS in London; and zero emission vehicles in local authority fleets. 

The report recommends:  

• Investing in infrastructure for modal shift: encouraging freight into urban areas by rail or water wherever possible; creating a more extensive network of rail and water-connected distribution sites; exploring other distribution hub formats beyond rail and water; and by consolidating orders through consolidation centres. 

• Incentivising modal shift by reviewing the fiscal regime for road haulage to ensure it covers more of its indirect and direct costs and which incentivises safer and greener operation, and thereby improving the competitive position of rail and water. A more interventionist approach to rail freight is also required to incentivise the rail sector to widen the scope and extent of its services.  

• Greening urban freight: with national Government developing a clear plan for delivering zero emission HGVs and the infrastructure necessary to support them, and local government and the wider public sector decarbonising its own fleets. Cycle logistics infrastructure should also be supported and expanded.  

• Improving the safety of urban freight: by reviewing the regime for road safety that reflects the disproportionate impact of goods vehicles, through a new UK road safety strategy which will help to deliver on targets for collision reduction; and to set and enforce vehicle standards at the national level. 

Laura Shoaf, chair of the Urban Transport Group, and chief executive at West Midlands Combined Authority, said: “With a greater recognition of the scale of the climate crisis and a global pandemic which accelerated changes in how we receive goods, particularly via e-commerce, it was time to take a fresh look at freight issues in our city regions. 

“Our report finds that freight has a role to play in decarbonised urban areas, and can contribute to shaping cities that people want to be part of. But for that to happen we must deliver improvements in environmental and safety aspects, and become more efficient and smarter – especially as local and transport authorities - in how we move and coordinate the movement of freight in our city regions. This must be underpinned by national support.” 

 The Delivering a greener future - Urban freight and the decarbonisation of the city regions report builds on and updates the 2015 report Delivering the future – New approaches to urban freight, which presented a vision for safe, smart and clean urban freight. 

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