When it comes to urban transport planning, freight requirements are traditionally the poor relation – after all, trucks and boxes don’t have votes. But Transport for London has, says its freight coordinator for construction Adrian Boughtflower, a clear understanding that the viability of London as a first-rank city depends just as critically on the efficient movement of freight across the capital as it does on the movement of commuters.
The TfL vision statement calls for ‘The safe, reliable and efficient movement of freight and servicing trips to, from and where appropriate through London to support London’s economy; and in balance with the needs of other transport users, London’s environment and Londoners’ quality of life’. This sounds like a tall order for a city which has never been planned and which in modern transport terms is arguably in the wrong place. And then there is the challenge of the 2012 Olympics.
‘In the next couple of decades,’ says Boughtflower, ‘London’s population will grow by around a million; with perhaps an increase in demand for goods and services and their associated freight movements of 15 per cent. But increased passenger movements will decrease the freight capacity of the roads and railways by 10 per cent.’
Although there are major projects such as Crossrail in the pipeline, it isn’t going to be possible to square the circle by driving big new roads or railways through one of the world’s most densely populated cities. London’s freight transport will have to learn to act smarter at all levels, from the logistics of big development projects to the fine detail of street furniture and the positioning of individual loading bays on high streets.
The headline-grabber for TFL’s freight unit has been the piloting of the Construction Consolidation Centre concept. This isn’t entirely new – Stockholm has something similar, although Boughtflower suggests London may be the first big city to consider this as an integral part of transport planning. But the results, which won TfL the European Supply Chain Excellence environment award, have been outstanding.
For an investment of a mere €3m the centre, which serves four large construction projects, has allowed construction companies to sequence material flows in ways long familiar to manufacturing industry but which have been rarely achievable for building sites.
‘We’ve seen a 70 per cent reduction of individual movements into the four sites,’ says Boughtflower. ‘Overall journey times have been reduced by two hours on average, and sites are experiencing 97 per cent delivery reliability. On control projects that was typically 35 per cent and sometimes as low as 25 per cent.’
This has to translate into major gains not just for London’s traffic congestion but for the economics of the construction industry.
‘TfL is also working to get in at the planning stage – to identify where the best locations for consolidations will be over the next 10 or 20 years and ensure that developers have planned how to deliver materials to their construction sites and indeed how to remove wastes,’ says Boughtflower. ‘There are strong links with London’s recycling targets and objectives.’
But Boughtflower explains that construction logistics is only one of four interlinked projects. The logistics requirements of buildings in operation also have to be addressed and TfL is working on the development of ‘delivery and service planning’. As with construction logistics, solutions would indicate a high degree of collaboration between logistics companies and between building occupants. A large office block, for example, may have 100 tenants. If they all have one stationery delivery a day, the result is gridlock. TfL is looking to develop consolidation models which might even be written into development permits to operate across a building’s life cycle, to make the most efficient use of street space.
The team is also working up a freight operator recognition scheme. How this will work is still unclear, but the aim is to incentivise best practice among logistics operators, whether that be in driver training, reliable scheduling around peaks, or the environmental performance of vehicles. As part of this, TfL is working with the police on a commercial vehicle education unit which will help operators to understand the issues and improve their performance, not just in regulatory compliance but in areas such as combating transportdirected criminal activity.
TfL is also supporting modelling and data collection to identify what counts as best practice in the context of urban London. This will go hand in hand with the development of a freight information portal which will bring into one place a mass of the information that freighters need for effective operation.
Adrian Boughtflower is a member of the Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport, with over 20 years’ experience in the industry.
ASSIGNMENTS AT TFL
He joined the freight unit of Transport for London in 2005, where his key areas of focus are the Construction Consolidation Centre, for which he was project manager, and the water modal sector, increasing the use of the Thames, its tributaries and canals.
The 2012 Olympics is a major concern, and Adrian is working closely with the Olympic Development Agency to help deliver its promise that over half of all construction materials will be delivered by rail or water.