Health effects of air pollution

Using the Thames to reduce air pollution from freight

We need to reduce air pollution from freight. Trialling the use of the river Thames for deliveries will reduce the number of polluting vans on London’s streets, which will improve people’s health.

Key partnership information:

What are we doing together?

We’re working with Grid Smarter Cities to test how the river Thames can be used to reduce air pollution from freight and delivery services in London and, ultimately, to improve public health. 

Grid Smarter Cities will work with businesses and the local authority to manage deliveries via Bankside pier, in the London borough of Southwark. Once the delivery has been made to the riverside loading bay, cargo bikes or electric vans will be used to transport goods to their final destinations. 

Grid Smarter Cities have also developed an online system which will enable delivery companies to pre-book loading bays for deliveries. This online system has multiple benefits. It provides certainty for companies about when they can load and unload their deliveries, which reduces the risk of delivery vans waiting, collecting parking tickets, having to circle the area, and contributing to congestion and air pollution.  

Grid Smarter Cities will work with a project evaluator, the Port of London Authority, and businesses to evaluate the project and determine whether river freight is an efficient way to improve freight systems and air quality in London. 

Aim of the partnership

River freight has the potential to significantly reduce air pollution in London. This trial project will help us to learn about how to shift freight miles away from vans, whilst reducing polluting emissions from freight and improving air quality for residents. 

By the end of the project, we want to be able to answer two questions: Should London – and other cities – prioritise using river freight to reduce air pollution? And, if so, what actions needed to be taken and by whom? Grid Smarter Cities will analyse the extent to which air quality improves in the area, assess the challenges to implementing an effective river freight system, and suggest recommendations for policymakers and businesses to overcome those challenges. 

The results from this project will help us understand:

  • the kinds of policies or regulations that are needed to build an effective river freight system 
  • how businesses can operationalise and promote the use of river freight 
  • and what kind of funding is needed to create an effective river freight system, both in London and cities around the world. 

Connection to our strategy

Reducing people’s exposure to air pollution is one of the core objectives of our programme 

Freight and delivery services are a major source of air pollution in London, and much of that air pollution comes from delivery vans. Using the river Thames to transport freight will help to reduce air pollution in the city and ultimately improve people’s health. 

Ben Pearce

Want to find out more about this project?

Contact Portfolio Manager, Ben Pearce.

Contact Ben