Major cities must take the lead in helping freight operators adopt retimed deliveries as congestion levels continue to surge.

Following data announced yesterday by INRIX that showed London topped a 25-strong European poll of the most gridlocked cities, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) said it was essential for regional cities to ensure freight was able to flow freely.

Malcom Bingham, head of policy, strategic road network, said congestion was a significant and costly issue for the freight sector, particularly in London. The FTA has calculated that for every minute the largest HGVs are stuck in traffic can cost an operator around £1.

Drivers in London spent an average 96 hours stuck in traffic jams in the capital last year, up 17% on the previous year and racing past second-placed Brussels with an average 74 hours of delays. Those in Greater Manchester wasted 52 hours, while Merseyside and Greater Belfast experienced 37 hours of delays.

Bingham told Freight in the City that regional urban areas must help introduce a package of measures that will allow freight movements to flow freely, such as priority routes and out-of-hours deliveries, which were proven to work successfully during the London 2012 Olympics.

“London’s had the experience and seen the benefits to retiming deliveries, but there are other cities waking up to the fact that this can be an option," he said. Large cities such as Leeds and Manchester, for example, will be exploring such opportunities.

Buy-in from the entire logistics supply chain is essential to get retiming initiatives up and running, as operators often face a challenge in getting their customers to participate and understand the benefits, as well as operational requirements of ensuring staff are available to receive goods at alternative times.

“The Olympics was a good example,” said Bingham. “Customers realised they would have a problem with their deliveries and were open to change. That’s half the problem, getting customers on board.”

He added it was important for city councils, planners and Local Enterprise Partnerships to assist freight operators by helping to educate their customers. The devolution of transport powers to city regions will also provide an impetus to get new freight initiatives up and running outside of the capital.

“Keeping freight traffic moving is good for the economy and good for the environment,” said Bingham.

The INRIX National Traffic Scorecard Report put the UK in fifth place in the country congestion poll, in which Belgium scooped the top spot, followed by the Netherlands, Germany and Luxembourg.

Congestion levels rose in more than half (53%) of European cities, which correlated with each country's economic growth as they began to recover from recession.

A recent study carried out by INRIX and the Centre for Economic Business Research (CEBR) estimated that betwwen 2013 and 2030, the total cumulative cost of congestion to the UK economy would be £307bn, with the annual cost of congestion set to rise by 63% to £21.4bn over the same period.