Worth the Weight: Making London’s deliveries greener and smarter


Freight and deliveries enable London’s economy to function, but currently rely on unsustainable modes of transport that cause significant pollution. This impacts on Londoners’ quality of life, health, and our ability to reach net zero.

  • Freight represents 15 per cent of total vehicle miles travelled in London, but 34 per cent of nitrogen oxide (NOX) and 27 per cent of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions from road transport come from freight vehicles.
  • Freight and deliveries also account for a quarter of London’s total carbon emissions from transport.

London’s freight and delivery challenges are much greater than those of other UK cities…

  • The city’s size means delivery consolidation cannot be pushed to the city’s fringe, which is too far away once green belt protections are taken into account.
  • There is a severe shortage of available space for logistics within the city, meaning that delivery vehicles need to drive longer distances.
  • London is the most congested city in the UK, with the greatest number of lost hours due to traffic of any UK city. Congestion prevents essential traffic such as freight and deliveries from moving around efficiently, and makes driver shifts more strenuous and unpredictable.
  • London is the densest city in the UK, with many competing street uses such as travel, leisure and residential.

…but London also has the most potential for sustainable deliveries:

  • Higher residential densities increase the viability of smaller, greener vehicles, as well as local parcel pick-up and drop-off.

The growth in demand for deliveries means the status quo is unsustainable, so we need to shift to greener modes and make deliveries more efficient.

  • The number of parcels delivered in London is expected to double by 2030 as the shift to e-commerce continues.
  • Diesel and petrol van sales are booming. Nationally, diesel van registrations increased by 82 per cent in March 2021 compared to 2020, while petrol van registrations increased twofold.
  • HGV electrification is not expected until the 2030s at the earliest.


To prioritise deliveries:

  • The Mayor of London should press ahead with plans to introduce road user charging, in order to reduce congestion on London’s roads and save time and money for vehicle drivers. Centre for London has been making the case for London government to introduce a road charging scheme, with charges based on vehicle class and emissions, distance travelled, the availability of replacement electric vehicles, where a journey is and whether it is deemed essential. Such a scheme could give priority to delivery and servicing vehicles.
  • London Councils should allow quiet deliveries to take place during evenings and the night-time.
  • London boroughs and Transport for London should embrace dynamic and digitalised kerb management, which would give delivery vehicles safer and more reliable access while minimising impacts on other road users.
  • Transport for London should introduce parking charges on red routes, and prioritise the need for loading bays over car parking.
  • If these recommendations prove difficult and challenging within existing regulatory powers, the national government should devolve further responsibilities to London’s government to allow them to proceed.

To deliver to and from the right places:

  • The Mayor of London should work with boroughs and parcel delivery companies to ensure that 90 per cent of Londoners have a universal parcel pick-up/drop-off point within 250 metres of their home by 2025.
  • National government should give the Mayor of London powers to introduce an online sales tax for at-home deliveries, which could be used to encourage delivery companies to set up more pick-up/drop-off locations, and encourage consumers to use them.
  • The Mayor of London and local authorities should campaign to highlight the impact of non-sustainable delivery methods, while also raising awareness and take-up of sustainable delivery options.
  • Local authorities should work with communities to understand how microhubs could serve their needs and deliver positive impact, while also including communities in consultation over the right locations.
  • The Mayor of London and London boroughs should ensure that space is available for logistics hubs near homes, which would allow delivery vehicles to reduce their mileage.

To deliver in the right way:

  • To accelerate the shift to electric vehicles, national government should fund upgrades to power distribution networks, as well as charging facilities in private and commercial premises such as depots.
  • To reduce van and lorry journeys on key London roads, national government and the Port of London Authority should invest in the redevelopment of London’s piers, wharves and rail-road interchanges. Public investment in river and rail freight infrastructure should be combined with targets for the electrification of boat and train fleets to reduce pollution.

To consolidate deliveries:

  • National government should give local authorities the power to require the consolidation of all commercial deliveries into designated areas, such as certain high streets. This would reduce congestion and pollution, and would improve high streets for residents and visitors.

If national government is unwilling:

  • Business Improvement Districts should negotiate framework procurement contracts so that their members can use common suppliers at cheaper prices.
  • Commercial landlords should require tenants to use the same suppliers for common services such as waste collection.
  • Local authorities should require all large developments in opportunity areas to use a construction consolidation centre, and make this a requirement of planning permission.
  • Local authorities should make delivery consolidation a requirement in planning applications for all new major developments.

Research methods

Research for this report was carried out according to a mixed-methods approach. A review of literature and policy documents on urban freight and deliveries was conducted, as well as a review of data on air pollution and carbon emission sources. We also interviewed 25 freight and logistics specialists to gather London-specific insights, including freight policy leads as well as experts from delivery companies and smart freight solutions businesses. For our Old Kent Road Deep Dive, we conducted a survey of 30 local businesses on their delivery needs and the barriers they faced to adopting greener delivery options.

The report also includes new data analysis provided by Environmental Defense Fund Europe (EDF Europe) on a sample of 7,100 trips made by goods vehicles on the Old Kent Road during the week of 9-15 September 2019, 1 as well as data modelling of local air pollution impacts.

  • 1 Data was procured from INRIX. INRIX has no affiliation with the analysis or results.