This week, the residents of London will be called upon to vote for the city’s next mayor and – as a recent ComRes poll indicates – housing is understandably the most pressing issue for Londoners, with 56 per cent putting it as a priority.
But while housing has risen up the public agenda, I fear transport is struggling for the spotlight.
With campaign groups such as the London Cycling Campaign calling to restrict the hours during which heavy goods and construction vehicles can use streets in central London and mayoral candidates responding to this within their respective manifestos, there is genuine concern that the construction sector’s needs are being overlooked.
A ban would be nonsensical. A report produced by the London School of Economics last year suggested that London needs 59,000 new homes to be built every year to meet demand.
With the provision of more housing comes the need for a greater number of lorries to help facilitate the building and fitting of these properties.
You can’t have one without the other – how else could the process be made efficient?
No blanket ban
One average-sized three-bedroom house requires at least 34 freight vehicle movements (according to the FTA’s London Elections Freight Manifesto 2016) to go from raw materials to a standing structure.
By making the job of these journeys more expensive, this will increase the cost of getting the houses built and in turn raise the cost of living for people across the city.
While the attractions of restricting large vehicles in rush hour are clear, it is not quite so simple or realistic to actually deliver on this promise.
Even if a blanket ban is implemented, deliveries will still need to be made and firms will find another way to get the job done quickly.
“One average-sized three-bedroom house requires at least 34 freight vehicle movements to go from raw materials to a standing structure”
Therefore, a medium-sized HGV would likely be replaced by 10 vans, which will just increase emissions, congestion, cost and potential injury to vulnerable road users.
The impact on construction operations would be detrimental to their entire workforce.
With the current London Lorry Control Scheme (LLCS) in place, HGV vehicles are already limited as to when they can use the city’s roads.
With a further working day restriction, drivers would need to work in two shifts for any normal day operation.
This is in line with the working time directive and the EU drivers’ tachograph regulations, and makes an HGV ban unsustainable and unworkable.
The Freight Transport Association is calling for a full review of the LLCS, which I fully support and call for the next mayor of London to support it too.
We need to see a reform of night-time delivery restrictions to allow for quieter vehicles to move more freely during out-of-hour’s deliveries to ease congestion.
The traffic flow of construction vehicles is an issue for the city but if we restrict this, where will the vehicles go when working in central London?
While I am a huge advocate of health and safety and admire the London mayoral candidates for putting cyclists and pedestrians centre stage for the upcoming election, there are other proactive ways to make safety paramount for vulnerable road users.
Cycling is 30 per cent safer with HGVs than it was just five years ago, according to the Freight Manifesto, and that’s because it is of increasing priority for firms in the city.
So my request to the next mayor of London is this: work with the construction industry and avoid this foolish HGV ban policy.
If the winner incentivises the use of lorries with reduced blind spots, as well as improving the roads for all, we can ensure London is both a safe and well-oiled city.
Jacqueline O’Donovan is managing director of O’Donovan Waste Disposal