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The benefits of logistics hubs in London


The benefits of logistics hubs in London


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UCL’s locational analysis has helped identify that microhubs can reduce environmental problems associated with last-mile cargo distribution in cities while delivering wider economic and social benefits for the communities served.

Report commissioned by British Land

Microhubs are relatively small facilities located in or near city or town centres, where cargo is received in bulk and then re-distributed to nearby residential and/ or commercial premises by low emission vehicles (e.g. electric vans, cargo cycles). Interest in urban microhubs has been growing, as evident by the increased number of these facilities in many cities and in the willingness of public authorities to encourage and sometimes co-fund them. The deployment of microhubs, and the associated shift towards employing low-emission vehicles is becoming urgent, given trends such as the increase in demand for home and business deliveries, shifts in political and public priorities towards sustainability and liveability (including carbon reduction, cleaner air and accident reductions), concerns about congestion, and increased competition for roadspace and kerbside space.

Microhubs can not only reduce environmental problems associated with last-mile freight distribution in cities, but under the right conditions can also generate benefits for shippers, freight operators and customers, as well as wider economic and social benefits for the communities they serve.

This report reviews international evidence on the realisation of these benefits, and then looks specifically at London. Simulation and evaluation studies have shown that, in general, microhubs located in denser urban areas reduce emissions while allowing for faster, more reliable, and more flexible deliveries, compared with conventional delivery systems. Previous studies have shown that the viability of microhubs, both from the operator’s and society’s perspective, is location-specific and depends, among other things, on the density of demand, the supply of labour, and on the characteristics of the road infrastructure in the surrounding areas.

Drawing upon this prior knowledge, the report develops and demonstrates a method for identifying the most suitable potential locations for urban microhubs served by cargo bikes. This method was applied to Greater London, using a grid of 39,861 points at 200m intervals, covering the whole of the Greater London area. The suitability of each point was assessed based on (i) the demand for deliveries (from residents and businesses), (ii) road infrastructure and operational conditions for cycling in the surrounding area, and (iii) the availability of a suitable pool of labour. Once these filters had been applied, the remaining 3,109 potential sites was then characterised in terms of (iv) wider social and environmental benefits of shifting motorised deliveries to cargo cycles and (v) local on site-level constraints.

The report concludes by mapping the locations of four potential microhub sites owned by British Land, in Central and Inner London, onto the remaining grid points.