A radical new transport plan is currently being outlined by the government. It could see vans banned from city centres under measures to improve air quality and reduce emissions. The Department of Transport is also looking to replace vans in city centres with micro-electric vehicles including cargo bikes, electric vans and minor vehicles.

Changing the city centre

Currently, there are said to be some 300,000 HGVs on UK roads alongside over 4,000,000 vans. Being major contributors to the air pollution, this is causing big problems in major cities. This number is ever-growing as the demand for delivery services rises in-line with the soaring popularity of online shopping.

The government’s idea is to see ‘last mile deliveries’ use low emission vehicles within city centres with the aim of reducing emissions and helping ease congestion around city centres. The changes are referenced in a new document called Last Mile and the Future of Mobility.

The paper works on principles currently being implemented by Cambridge City Council, they announced at the end of last year that certain vehicles would be banned. Oxford City Council are also set to follow suit within the next two years.

New funding

Also referenced was £12.1 million of funding for six projects working on simulation and modelling to help with the development of connected and autonomous vehicles. Transport Minister Jesse Norman said “The UK had a long and proud history of leading the transport innovation and that the new Future of Mobility Grand Challenge will continue this.”

Not only could the new scheme change how people and goods are moved around the UK, but there are also significant benefits and economic opportunities. The autonomous vehicle industry would be worth over $50 billion by 2035 experts say.

Changing the transport network

Overall, the idea is to improve the country’s transportation system to make it safer, more accessible and greener. The government foresee things like the widespread use of self-drive cars and even flying vehicles.

With the idea of self-drive cars, the government say there would be less need for parking spaces in the city centres. These could be repurposed into new urban homes to help with the growing demand for new houses, especially as people move back into the city centres.

Changing demands

The government has a good basis for the changes – because we are already changing how we use the transport network. For example, people are driving less and fewer workers are commuting as more people work from home or have flexible working contracts.

The aging population and the number of people returning to live in urban areas also reduces demand on the road network.

In earlier plans, the move away from fossil-fuelled powered cars and towards zero emissions has been outlined. This means by 2040, the government want all new cars and vans to be zero emission, and improvements in electric vehicle technology make this more viable.

The use of automation in vehicles also has the potential to make road travel safer. Improved sensors, better computing power within vehicles and the potential of artificial intelligence are slowly taking some of the emphasis from the driver. Experts expect fully self-driving cars to be on UK roads by 2021, improving safety, accessibility and allowing better use of urban space.

Electric vans

The electric van is one of the more popular ways to fulfil the growing demand for deliveries in the city without adding to the pollution problem. Currently, the electric van is dominated by Renault and Nissan who have expanded and improved their ranges in the last two years, although mostly still for smaller vans.

However, other big names are getting involved, creating large electric vans for release over the next few years including Mercedes, Renault and Volkswagen. So far, these vans can be lower in cost to run than a diesel version with fewer serviceable parts and obviously lower fuel costs.

Moreover, their virtually silent running means that there is the possibility of deliveries at times outside the regular hours as there is no engine noise to cause a nuisance. Talk of buying incentives will also catch the eye of business owners too while the ‘green’ credentials from running such vans is an ever-increasing extra benefit.

Transport revolution

There’s no doubt that a transport revolution is underway with how we get around being forever changed, from silent vans to flying cars, the future is indeed near. It has the potential to make city centres much more pleasant places to visit and free up much-needed space for other purposes.

What do YOU think about this proposed van ban in cities? Is it practical for business and retailers? More importantly, will it make a difference to road congestion and pollution where there are still buses and HGVs on city roads? Let us know in the comments below please.

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