Removing vans from end to end parcel movements in the UK and beyond

The city environment presents a challenge for logistics companies to reach their customers. Congestion, kerb side restrictions and charges for pollution all affect access to the inner core of a city. Not only that but as cities become denser and cycling and walking policies gain traction under a movement to make our cities liveable, we are seeing a rebalancing of shared space towards cycling and walking and away from roads.

In this new world, dense cities will only thrive if freight is accommodated. The volume of freight must therefore start to move in the same direction as the policy framework, or in other words, away from roads. Our work demonstrates that there is a viable business case enabling the removal of vans and trucks in congested urban areas and that this work is scalable beyond conventional last mile cycle logistics.

Working closely with our partner and targeting a sustainable future, we developed a solution that we call ECO Hub II. Through a collaborative approach we were able to define an innovative and scalable, van free ‘last mile’ delivery solution using the concept of mechanised small containerisation and a city centre distribution hub.

In 2015 we applied for project funding and we received an Innovate UK Smart Grant. This was followed by further funding from Innovate UK in 2016 as part of a £10 million investment in projects which aim to improve the efficiency and experience of journeys end-to-end for people and freight. Our partners on this were, UPS; the University of Huddersfield; Outspoken Delivery and Westminster City Council.  In 2018, the journey towards production continued and we were delighted to be awarded grant funding as part of the Smart Dublin SBIR Last Mile Delivery 2018 project with lead authority Dublin City Council, in partnership with Smart Dublin; Dublin City Council; Enterprise Ireland; and Belfast City Council.

Phase One of our project has been completed. This successfully identified the need and proved the potential for introducing our ECO Hub II.  Phase Two trials with UPS are now scheduled to take place in London, Dublin and Belfast this year as we continue to full market launch and demonstration of ECO Hub II capability.