Cyclist in traffic

It was blazing hot even at 10am in the morning as the press assembled for the launch of the Roads Task Force (RTF) report earlier this month, on London's seen-better-times Elephant and Castle roundabout.


London mayor Boris Johnson, who set up the RTF last year, duly arrived on his bicycle to give his view on the report, which is broadly complementary to his own aims for the capital, to the awaiting broadcasters.


London mayor Boris Johnson

On hand too was Transport for London (TFL) commissioner Peter Hendy to explain how some of the future needs highlighted in the report might actually be met in the real world.

The report makes 10 recommendations, and numerous suggestions - at a total cost of an eye-watering £30bn over 20 years if everything was put in place - that range from practical to outlandish (although it should be noted that congestion at present in London is put at a £2bn annual cost to businesses there).

Beyond the Olympics

However, post-Olympics the RTF's call to shift freight deliveries outside of rush hour, in part to boost cyclists' safety, seemed the obvious point to put to Hendy.

TfL is well aware that freight faces capacity issues even now, so rather than simply reduce delivery hours it is keen to extend the delivery window, and to that end it was ready to announce another round of out of hours delivery trials would take place in the next few months.

"There was fantastic co-operation in the run up to the Games," Hendy said. "What it did was demonstrate that you could keep the city running despite a difficult situation [for freight companies to delivery in].

London2012 the Mall

"However, if we want to be able to do this on a permanent basis, we need to re-engage with the councils. Out of hours is difficult for them as they are elected by residents that typically say 'no' [to out of hours deliveries]. But we proved during the Games that with modern roll-cages, no shouting and other measures that it can be done, which in turn will help freight operators be more efficient."

Hendy added that the likes of DHL and UPS, who committed much time and effort to running out of hours during the Olympics, "really get it", and DHL for one has since expressed its desire to work to win the right to have the additional operational flexibility out of hours deliveries bring.

London Lorry Control Scheme

However, when the London Lorry Control Scheme (LLCS) - aka London lorry ban - was mentioned as symbolic of London's councils' refusal to bend, it was as if a cloud had suddenly appeared in the clear blue sky. No doubt the commissioner must be tired, very tired, with answering this one by now, but fair play, he did.


This road is closed to freight

"I think a full frontal assault on the councils to get the LLCS changed would be unsuccessful," said Hendy. "If the industry can get to the stage where they have done everything they can practically, and can demonstrate that out of hours deliveries don't cause excessive noise, than I think we can have a conversation about the LLCS in the mid-term."

And that is the ultimate problem. While the RTF urges a collaborative approach, as does the mayor and TfL, there's no ultimate recourse other than cajoling open to Hendy and his team to bring London's 33 council's on board.

Around 90% of all freight in the capital is moved by road, but bridging the gap between councils, residents and the freight industry seems as far away as ever, if the following reaction is anything to go by.

Asked if the LLCS might be up for review against the backdrop of 'in it togetherness' RTF's report puts forward, scheme administrator London Council's was blunt. “The LLCS does not restrict out of hours deliveries and while the scheme may be changed for other reasons, a review is not essential to meet the Roads Task Force objectives,” said a spokeswoman.

It seems the RTF's attempt at creating a single "Vision and direction for London's streets and roads", to use its own report title, is one vision that some see more clearly than others.

Scant reward for a freight industry that ultimately got on with it last year and delivered the Olympic Games.