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Traffic in London

Health effects of air pollution

Exploring the future of freight and deliveries in London

With Centre for London

Key partnership information

Partner: Centre for London

Funding amount: £35,000

Duration: March 2021 – October 2021

Programme: health effects of air pollution


What we’re doing together

We have funded Centre for London to undertake a research project to look at the future of freight and deliveries in London. This research project is looking at how we can create smarter, fairer and less polluting freight and logistics ecosystems. The research will combine stakeholder interviews, data analysis, round tables and desk research to understand the future trends for freight and deliveries in the London and make policy recommendations.

It will also include a “deep-dive” into one priority area in Lambeth and Southwark. We hope this project will help inform what practical projects we might fund within our boroughs and the types of policy change we need to see across London to reduce emissions related to freight. We are delighted to be co-funding this work alongside Prologis, the largest industrial real estate company in the world.

The impact of freight on local air pollution


of road transport carbon emissions in the capital come from goods vehicles


of particulate matter in Lambeth and Southwark comes from freight

Aims of the partnership

This project will explore questions such as:

  • What freight and logistics journeys are being made across London; by what mode and why?
  • What impacts can freight have on different Londoners, in terms of traffic, pollution, access? How can we ensure that policy changes don’t compound existing disadvantage?
  • How could we decarbonise London’s freight and logistics industry by 2030?
  • What role could new types of co-ordination, such as last-mile deliveries and consolidation hubs, play?


Connection to our strategy

In the develop phase of the programme, one of our key priority areas is working with businesses to reduce business-related emissions. We are starting by focussing on freight and construction as two industries that contribute to air pollution in our boroughs. Specifically, we know that freight (which includes deliveries and waste collection) contributes to 20% of nitrogen dioxide and 10% of particulate matter in Lambeth and Southwark[1].

This project will particularly enable us to better understand the causes of air pollution from freight and to build a network of key stakeholders, particularly businesses and policy makers, who feed into strategic decision making.

This research with Centre for London will sit alongside action-focussed projects – for example working with Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust on supply chain and working with a local business improvement district to scale up cargo bikes.

Freight and deliveries play a significant role in London’s transport mix, with more than 20 per cent of London’s road network capacity taken up by freight, deliveries and other commercial vehicles. Before the pandemic, Transport for London estimated that almost 25 per cent of road transport carbon emissions in the capital came from goods vehicles.

Freight and deliveries have kept London ticking throughout lockdowns but the steep increase in online deliveries has made the need to create a more sustainable, less polluting and efficient freight system even more urgent. The further digitisation of retail and shift to more remote working, as well as the evolution of connected and autonomous vehicles and micromobility technology will interact with these challenges and trends in unpredictable ways. Crucially, these changes also present the freight and logistics industries with new opportunities, marking a period of action in a sector that must change and adapt quickly to avoid stalling its progress on decarbonisation and air quality. We want to understand these longer term trends and how they relate to other policy changes such as the expansion of ULEZ.

As we move into a new, post-COVID-19 chapter in our history, this project will look at the future of transporting goods around London and other cities, and make recommendations as to how to create smarter, less polluting freight and logistics systems. It will also consider how that can be done in a way that doesn’t compound existing inequalities.

As co-sponsor of this research, we can bring a specific focus on air pollution and health equity – and a focus on people whose health is impacted by air pollution from freight. This project will also help to inform where we focus our energy to have the greatest impact as our programme develops.

[1] KCL research for GSTC

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Ben Pearce

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Ben Pearce leads on our work to find solutions to air pollution

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