At a meeting of the Central London Freight Quality Partnership on 20th May, it was reported that the relaxations of access restrictions temporarily extended to the freight industry in London during the Covid-19 emergency are to be reinstated or further extended to provide more segregation for pedestrians and cycle traffic.
City of London
We believe that this will put further pressure on an already challenged industry at this difficult time. The City of London, Transport for London (TfL) and London Councils have issued the following statements:
As a result of plans for street closures and reversals to ensure 2m pedestrian spacing due to be implemented in first week in June the map indicates road closures and new priorities in the Square Mile.
There was discussion at the meeting by the stakeholder delivery teams - not enough time for risk assessments said the brewers faced with reversed flows in some streets initially for getting the haulage out of the cellars. Other comments were dissatisfaction with the speed of the reintroduction of Road user charging: does not give sufficient time for fleet reallocation. But The City of London is preparing a post Covid safe operations guidance document for City businesses including hotels, pubs etc. This will be shared beyond the City.
Transport for London
Dr Andrew Neather, Strategic communications lead, air quality, Department of News and External Relations for TfL, followed with:
"With apologies for the short notice, we have announced the latest stage of the Mayor’s London Streetspace scheme. It will open up new walking and cycling corridors to help the city’s transport network cope with the impact of coronavirus and social distancing, as people return to work with the easing of lockdown.
"We are encouraging people to continue working from home wherever possible. However, given the impact of social distancing on the capacity of the public transport network, we want to help Londoners walk and cycle as much as possible. So car-free streets will transform roads across the capital, with new walking and cycling corridors.
"At the same time, a car-led recovery would have a damaging effect for Londoners. Before the pandemic, the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) had had a transformative effect on air quality; since the crisis, traffic levels on roads managed by TfL have fallen by as much as 60 per cent and harmful nitrogen dioxide is down by more than 50% in central London. But traffic and pollution are now starting to rise again. It is essential that the central London road charging schemes are reinstated to deter unnecessary car use and avoid gridlock for essential deliveries."
- Central London’s Congestion Charge (CC) and the ULEZ are being reinstated from Monday 18 May to prevent significant increases in pollution and congestion.
- The Low Emission Zone will also be reintroduced from that time.
- Meanwhile to help to continue to support the vital role of NHS and care home staff in these unprecedented times, we will be extending the CC reimbursement scheme temporarily.
- We also propose to implement a number of temporary further changes to the CC. These include increasing the CC to £15 and extending its hours of operation from 22nd June. These conditions are part of the Government’s bailout deal with TfL announced on 14 May.
TfL recognises the challenges faced by the freight and commercial sectors at this time, but since Government advice has changed, it is important to reinstate the schemes to avoid congestion and its impacts on air quality. For the logistics sector this will help avoid gridlock, speed up journey times and support the delivery of essential goods and services.
London Lorry Control Scheme
In parallel with the post-Covid implementation of more route restrictions for deliveries from The City of London and TfL the reinstatement of the London Lorry Control Scheme will further constrain deliveries in the London Boroughs, the program for staged implementation was detailed as below:
London Councils was one of the first enforcement authorities in London to react to the Covid-19 emergency, suspending enforcement of the LLCS on 17th March 2020.
This decision was taken to help the freight and logistics industry cope with increased pressures in keeping London’s essential shops and services supplied at the time where there were severe food shortages and significant issues with deliveries.
The suspension of the scheme was originally in place until 30 April but, following discussions with freight industry representatives and the continuing emergency, it was extended until 31 May 2020.
Following discussions with key stakeholders, London Councils is now planning to re-introduce enforcement of the scheme now the significant delivery pressures on the freight industry have subsided. Traffic management schemes across London and the UK are lifting suspensions or resuming more usual activity due to increasing road traffic demand and the LLCS is no exception.
We are aware that from the perspective of the freight industry this news will come as a disappointment. The approach taken by London Councils to suspend the scheme and the flexibility it afforded operators at a difficult time was welcomed by industry representatives who have indicated that the freight sector and businesses they serve are still in a fragile and unstable period, and a continuation of the suspension would be vital in ensuring a maintained recovery. They had also indicated that the efficiencies in travel time had provided a wider window for activity.
Whilst we understand the views of the freight sector, we also feel that the reasons for the initial suspension have diminished and delivery patterns, whilst changeable, are returning to a more normal phase. Coupled with significant increases in traffic volumes, we believe now is the right time to reintroduce the scheme and control HGV movements at sensitive times to protect Londoners from unnecessary noise pollution in residential areas. When the scheme resumes, the suspension and the flexibility it afforded would have been in place for nearly three months.
We would reiterate that the scheme does not ban the movement of vehicles and any delivery to any location can be made at any time of the day or night. If there are concerns regarding specific routes and delivery locations, then freight operators can contact LLCS officers directly to discuss these and special arrangements can be made where feasible.
The decision to recommence enforcement of the scheme has not been taken lightly. London Councils has consulted with boroughs to seek their views and to date all of those who have responded have stated that the scheme should be reintroduced in June 2020.
Boroughs also agreed with the approach of issuing Warning Notices for a period of two weeks following the lifting of the suspension.
London Councils is introducing a phased approach to lifting the suspension of the scheme. These phases are as follows:
From Thursday 21st May 2020, our enforcement contractor NSL will once again deploy enforcement officers on street in London to make HGV observations. This would only be to collect data on lorry movements and will assist London Councils in understanding the current freight activity and comparative information on pre Covid-19 activity. This would also help provide data for the final phases of the LLCS review and any future piloting of changes to the terms and conditions of the scheme. No enforcement would be undertaken at this time.
From Monday 1st June 2020 activities will be logged onto the LLCS case management system and officers will process and assess these observations. Any possible breaches of the scheme will result in the issuance of a Warning Notice only. This will advise that recipients were potentially in breach of the scheme and could have received either a PCN or an enquiry notice depending on whether they had an existing permission. London Councils will take no further action at this time but will advise that continued use of this route without justification may result in future enforcement action. We will issue Warning Notices for a period of two weeks.
Following the two-week period of issuing Warning Notices, the LLCS will revert to regular usual enforcement of the scheme on 15 June 2020 under the existing terms and conditions. However, LLCS officers will be available to discuss any specific issues operators have as a result of COVID-19 and arrange special routing requirements if necessary.
It should be noted that the reintroduction of enforcement of the LLCS will be kept under review and if necessary, can be suspended again at any time.
London Councils will use our comprehensive communications networks to advise of the changes, which we have utilised in announcing the initial and continued suspension of the scheme. This will include direct communications to all key stakeholders and trade associations, boroughs, TfL, registered hauliers on database. London Councils will also update the LLCS website.