Walking zone and cycling lane provision has added to congestion in London at least temporarily, TfL told the Transport Committee this week.

However, it remains part of its long term strategy to tackle the capital's chronic congestion.

In a written submission to the Transport Committee’s hearing on urban congestion, TFL said that the Congestion Charge Zone (CCZ) had been successful in reducing traffic volumes in central London since its introduction in 2003.

TfL said that although there has been an increase in the number of vans, construction vehicles and private hire vehicles since, overall traffic levels in the CCZ area have fallen since its inception.

“Despite this, congestion levels in the Congestion Charging Zone returned to similar levels seen before the scheme as a consequence of works to provide more road space for walking and cycling and improvements to public transport, urban realm and road safety,” the evidence adds.

TfL stated cycling and walking infrastructure is integral to its long term strategy of reducing traffic by reducing the amount of short, private car journeys undertaken in preference to the former.

However, Christopher Snelling, FTA head of national and regional policy echoed MP Rob Flello's line of questioning at the previous session of the committee, argued the congestion generated by these works was not short-term.

Snelling told the committee that FTA members had reported, during a recent survey, “substantial increases” in traffic congestion in areas where cycling and walking zones had been introduced.

Van traffic

TfL’s submission also forecast that trips by vans, which constitute 80% of freight road kilometres in London, compared to 20% by HGVs, will rise by more than a quarter (26%) by 2031.

“This represents 77% of the total growth in vehicle trips forecast for London as a whole. Over the same period, the number of HGV kilometres are forecast to stay the same,” TfL said.

TfL called for a co-ordinated and consistent approach from all players in the freight supply chain in order to minimise the impact of freight journeys on congestion.

It laid out a three pronged plan to cut freight trips into the city, shift freight trips to less congested times and use “the safest and cleanest vehicle, with an appropriately trained driver” for each delivery.

Consumer demand

Sam Clarke

Sam Clarke, director at Gnewt Cargo (pictured), which uses electric vans to operate final mile deliveries, pointed to rise in same day deliveries as a major reason for the rising numbers of vans in the city.

He called on retailers to step up to the plate, pointing out there were no retailers present at the hearing.

“Very rarely are retailers at any of these conversations and that is a piece that is lacking because there is no such thing as free delivery. We are all paying for it.

"We just can’t see what we are paying for and that element is creating a consumer purchasing scenario that is distorting the market. That 'buy now, get it in an hour' mentality is contributing to this increase in congestion.”

Tom Cherrett, professor of transport and logistics management at Southampton University, echoed this view, suggesting that the congestion charge in London be graded in a way that charged extra for deliveries into the city at certain times.

Congestion is estimated to cost London's economy an estimated £5bn a year, according to TfL.