A simple twist of freight

Shaun McCarthy

July 23, 2009   |   Posted by Shaun McCarthy

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Logistics is the key to any successful major project and the London 2012 Olympic programme is the biggest in Europe. Making such a project safe, efficient and sustainable is a challenge for all involved.

As Chair of the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012, I am a frequent visitor to the Olympic Park construction site. This is the largest construction project in Europe to support the Olympic Games in 2012, which is the largest peace-time organisational effort in the world. At the peak of construction, the site will receive 1,250 vehicle deliveries by per day.

The Olympic Delivery Authority is currently achieving 57% of deliveries (by weight) by rail. Freight is delivered to the Bow East Logistics Centre that can handle multi-modal product shipments like aggregate, sand, steel, cable reels, pallets and containers. Six trains per day can deliver up to 8,100 tonnes of materials, equivalent to 450 lorry loads. The ODA estimates that 4 million tonnes of goods will be moved by rail, saving 120,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide during the construction phase.

British Waterways’ new lock (Three Mills Lock) is now open and the ODA will be removing the construction waste by barge (on 350 tonne barges) to take it to a recycling centre. The lock can handle 8 to 16 barges a day depending on tides.

Businesses that transport a lot of goods should consider their transport options carefully. Rail freight can deliver significant operational advantages and save money, an example of the benefits would be:

  • Reliable, consistent departure and arrival times giving predictability
  • Known transit times to plan around
  • High maximum payload capacity
  • Reduced exposure to driver’s hours and working time directive issues
  • Excellent load security
  • Protection from the effects of road congestion
  • Less direct exposure to fuel price variance.

The environmental benefits are very significant, road freight delivers between 3 and 5 times the carbon emissions of rail, air quality emissions should also be considered carefully. The area around the Olympic Park has particularly poor air quality and it is essential that everything practicable is done to mitigate the health impacts of this problem.

LOCOG has yet to finalise logistics plans for the final run-up to Games time but we are confident that sustainable forms of logistics will be top of their agenda and we look forward to reviewing their plans.

If the Olympic Park is to be a blueprint for sustainable living in future there is a need to create a vision of a community uncluttered by vehicles of all shapes and sizes with their internal combustion engines. There will be a need to consider options to remove waste or deliver goods through methods untried today, and to work with the community to have a quality of life that does not rely on continuous consumption and disposal of goods and natural resources.

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