In recent months’ mayoral election debates have seen an increasing focus on quality of life issues. Certainly everyone can agree that we all want London to remain a great place in which to live and work.
However, to remain great, London also has to be a good place to run business and succeed. That’s why the growing calls for a morning peak-hour lorry ban in central London are of concern.
Central London is a highly successful commercial area where, every day, Londoners browse goods in shops, frequent cafes, restaurants and bars as well as receive personal deliveries at their workplace. Common activities made possible because of efficient logistics traffic that ensures commercial outlets have the stock in place, in time, to meet customer requirements.
It is reasonable to expect to be able to grab a coffee on The Strand at 8am or buy goods on Oxford Street at 9am but coffee shops and retail stores need supplying ahead of the start of daily trading – that requires early morning deliveries in central London by high volume logistics vehicles.
It is possible to achieve a sensible balance between public concern over potential cyclist/pedestrian roads injury and commercial need to serve actual customer/consumer demand.
Congestion in central London is forecast to increase by 60 per cent by 2031. That will be very bad for London residents and London businesses. We need to plan now to do things differently.
Our capital needs an integrated freight delivery strategy that maximises the potential of roads, rail - and the river.
The next Mayor could deliver a comprehensive freight delivery plan that firstly advocates many more off-peak deliveries – a recent LCCI commissioned poll found 67 per cent of businesses want to see a relaxation of night-time delivery rules in central London. Night-time deliveries could be key to facilitating future changes in traffic rules however new hours or increased frequency should not be able to be blocked by an unrepresentative and vocal minority.
Secondly, a new Mayoral freight delivery plan should promote alternative means of delivering certain goods. For example, an average freight train can take around 48 lorries off the road. There is potential for much greater use of the river Thames, however this could require specific wharves along river banks to be safeguarded for dispersal points.
As our city grows and develops towards a population of nine million by 2020, it is inevitable that things will change.
However, policymakers need to take care not to produce unintended consequences by taking quick, populist decisions - but rather think through a credible plan that minimises adverse economic impacts while commanding public confidence in our roads.