Freight and the city: Delivering sustainable urban logistics

3 March 2014

Over the last year, LaMiLo has looked at how to link the various modes of transport to best effect, tailoring the ’last mile’ to suit the local operating environment. In countries such as France, multimodal transport solutions have been used for decades to deliver goods into cities, using combinations of trains, barges, trucks and bikes. In London and most other major UK cities, virtually all deliveries of goods are made using road transport, whilst the rail and waterway networks remain largely unused.

In the case of rail, the opportunity exists to move a wide range of goods into cities using low-emission, high-speed trains: from scheduled passenger services moving individual packages through to trainload freight trains able to deliver several hundred roll cages or pallets direct to city centres. The LaMiLo Euston demonstrator was trialled by Eddie Stobart and Colas Rail in Autumn 2012 to prove the concept, which successfully delivered goods for a supermarket chain from the Midlands into London’s Euston station. From there, smaller goods vehicles more suited to the urban environment were used for ‘last-mile’ delivery to stores in central London. Stobart recently won the first prize at the Rail Safety and Standards Board’s rail freight innovation competition, for developing modular intermodal delivery ‘pods’, specifically for urban logistics applications. It is hoped to trial these ‘pods’ during a second demonstration in Euston and work is currently underway to engage with major retailers.

This activity has generated considerable interest, at a time when both customers and retailers are seeking greater availability of “click and collect” services in and around London, capable of offering next-day and same-day delivery. With much of the UK’s logistics networks centred on the Midlands, rail will increasingly offer the only means of surface transport capable of providing a same-day solution across the majority of the country. Furthermore, moving more of these deliveries onto intermodal operations can help remove larger lorries from city centres, reducing conflicts with other users on busy local roads, which were never designed to cope with the volume of traffic or the size of modern goods vehicles.

The role of the LaMiLo project is therefore to demonstrate practical solutions to these issues, challenging public and private sector organisations to create capacity in and around the rail network for last-mile deliveries. This will not only benefit local business and communities, but in turn deliver new business to the rail network. For more information on the Euston pilot click here.


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