Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by the British Retail Consortium (IT 123)



  BRC, in responding to the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee's invitation for evidence for the Integrated Transport White Paper Inquiry, would like to highlight the following key issues:

    —  BRC would like to emphasise that retailers want to be involved in quality partnerships to reduce the environmental impacts of retail transport issues; involving customers to stores, employees to stores and freight movements.

    —  The key to the success of congestion charging and a work place parking tax will lie with the local authorities. Business input is essential, from all the different sectors, so that their concerns are taken onboard at an early stage and they are able to deliver the policies set out in the transport plan in partnership with the local authorities.

    —  The majority of congestion is created by non-shopping trips, commuters, work-related driving and school runs. A recent Lex Report (Lex Report on Motoring) stated that shopping is a minor element in the cost of congestion with the overall cost of congestion at around £10.4 billion. This figure is broken down as such, with work driving accounting for £8.3 billion, commuting £1 billion, school runs £0.6 billion and shopping only £0.5 billion. BRC believes that measures which attempt to alter travel behaviour will only be successful if there is alternative public transport provision in place. In order to avoid damage to the vitality and viability of town and city centres, road charging schemes must be time sensitive, so as not to penalise the user, (for example a short stay visitor or shopper) outside of the peak hours of congestion, in the morning, and at the end of the working day.

    —  There have only been limited pilot schemes on congestion charging. One such example took place in Leicester. Any future pilots must be on a larger scale and the social, environmental and economic impacts of these pilots must be measured to assess their success. The retail sector would welcome appropriate involvement in further pilot work.

    —  Support for work place parking taxes will be greater if all the money raised is hypothecated for transport matters, with no exemptions, including the public sector. While this new tax will result in additional revenue to invest in transport provision, attention should be paid to the implications for employee and employer taxation, such as disincentives built into the system which discourage the promotion of alternatives to car use.

    —  BRC was concerned that the White Paper did not deal with delivery curfews. Delivery curfews currently force freight on the road network at the peak congestion hours Alleviation of delivery curfews (allowing night-time deliveries) is one significant way of reducing congestion during the busiest parts of the day. In turn, retailers will minimise disturbances to residents. For example over 40 per cent of Safeway Stores plc stores are affected by night-time delivery curfews of between 6 and 16 hours.

    —  BRC is pleased that the White Paper recognises the `Delivering the Goods', a joint initiative on urban distribution by the Local Government Association and the Freight Transport Association. BRC believes that this is an important area and we are pleased that the Government will promote the development of Quality Partnerships for freight between the road haulage industry, local authorities and business.


  The British Retail Consortium (BRC) represents 90 per cent of the total retail trade in the UK, operating in excess of 290,000 shops and stores, occupying over 30 per cent of commercial property portfolio by floor space and employing about 2.9 million people, some 11 per cent of the workforce.

  Membership covers all forms of retailing, from the large multiples and department stores, through to the corner shop, from food and drink to furniture and DIY, from centre of town to rural, to mail order and machine vending.

  Retailing is a major engine of employment growth in the economy, creating 126,900 net new jobs in 1997.

  Transport is vital to the success of the retail industry, not only for shoppers going to the stores, but for freight deliveries and also for the staff going to work at the stores. Retailers accept that they have an important role, along with certain responsibilities in the transport debate. Retailers have specific requirements from the transport system and want to work with Government and Local Authorities to ensure these occur. Retailers have been extremely innovative in the transport field over the past few years, and will continue to be so.

  Retailers ensure that they use the transport system as effectively as possible, developing innovative methods of sustaining the environment while at the same time meeting their essential transport needs.

  This response considers the four key areas for the retail industry mentioned in the White Paper:

    —  Local Authorities.

    —  Movement of shoppers to stores.

    —  Movement of workers to stores.

    —  Deliveries to stores.


  BRC believes that there must be local solutions for local problems. Transport requirements around the country vary greatly and one prescribed solution for all will not work in every location. We caution against applying London solutions to areas which are totally different; London has its own distinct transport problems. Retailers need to be involved during the formation, refinement and operation of transport plans so as to ensure that the plans are realistic and achievable.

Local Transport Plans

  The local transport plans will be the key to the success of the White Paper. BRC urges the Government to involve business, including retailers in discussions on these plans. It is essential to have a national framework for the development of the local transport plans.

  BRC believes that the Local Government Association (LGA) should play the lead role in guiding the 400 plus Local Authorities, disseminating best practice. BRC is, however, concerned about the varying degrees of understanding shown by the Local Authorities on transport issues, depending on location in the country. We are also concerned about, how in practice, the links will be drawn between the policies contained in local development and county structure plans, with those set out in the local transport plan. One example will be the timing of adoption, reviews and modifications.

Congestion Charging

  Local Authorities will be involved in the implementation of the proposed congestion charging schemes. BRC would support the concept of congestion charging as long as it: achieves what it was set out to achieve, namely to reduce congestion; and, was time sensitive for the peak congestion periods, with the actual monies raised hypothecated for transport measures. BRC would, however, be concerned that such a scheme would affect the vitality and viability of a town centre if it were not time sensitive. Through such a scheme, town centres would suffer, in direct contravention of Government policy (as set out in PPG 6).

  Congestion charging is a useful tool if there are other alternative forms of transport available, for example changing commuters' travel movements from car to the bus or train. BRC believes that the congestion charging pilot schemes must be analysed for their economic, social and environmental costs. BRC has followed the trials on the A646 near Leeds, with the high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane and road pricing trial in Leicester involving council staff. These have only been small scale studies and the problems found with these schemes need to be taken on board and assessed. However, such trials can be useful, for example through the testing of IT requirements.

  BRC believes that congestion charging links in with delivery curfews. Presently retailers have no option but to have their deliveries take place at peak times. In many cases, this is due to the night-time and dawn delivery curfews being in place. Retailers, therefore, are being forced to deliver at the peak times when they would prefer not to deliver. If congestion charging was introduced, it would directly affect these retailers.

  Research recently completed by Healey & Baker has found that Local Authorities have been doing little to penalise motorists who have been driving into town centres. In fact, they found that many small centres (32 per cent) were positively encouraging cars by increasing their number of car parking spaces. This is at odds with the White Paper, but helps to illustrate the dilemma that Local Authorities face. They are in a competitive situation, with neighbouring town centres vying for business from the others. For example, a town offering free parking should be able to attract more custom when a neighbouring town charges for its parking.

  Retailers are invariably the catalyst for regeneration of town centres and more Local Authorities need to understand this. The issue of parking features heavily in PPG13 (the planning policy guidance note on transport) and we understand that this guidance will be subject to review in due course.


  Retailers are absolutely dependent for their livelihood on shoppers being attracted to their stores, which links in with them requiring an efficient and reliant transport system. Shopping has a minimum effect on congestion, the Lex Report mentioned earlier calculated that shopping only accounts for £0.5 billion of the £10.4 billion overall cost of congestion. Invariably shopping takes place outside of the peak congestion periods in the early morning and evening, which has been helped by longer trading hours. The Government's own figures indicated that shopping only accounted for 12 per cent of the distance travelled per person between 1994 and 1996.

  For a family of four, the average weight of their week's food shopping is 80lbs (six bags of shopping) which is very difficult to carry on public transport. This also applies to other bulky goods. This is why most families prefer to complete one large food shop a week, which is better for the environment, and makes economic sense for them to use their car for such trips. About 74 per cent of shoppers use their car to go shopping, and for many it is a lifeline, especially true for those in remote areas.

Park and Ride and Free Bus Services

  Retailers acknowledge that they have a part to play in reducing car movements to their stores, hence the number of park and ride schemes and the operation of bus services to their food stores. For example Tesco spent over £3 million last year on 100 different free bus routes services for customers, with a view to providing access for pensioners and people without cars. Many of their stores have a free-phone link with local mini-cab companies, which also helps non-drivers.

  Park and Ride schemes have had varying degrees of success, invariably being most successful in historic towns and cities, such as York. BRC supports such schemes but admits that there are certain limitations with them, and they are not appropriate in every area. It is important that with such schemes there is good practice in place and that they meet the customer's requirements, for example sufficient shelters, regular service and secure car parking.


  Retailers acknowledge that cycles are a good environmental option to the car, and are involved in increasing the use of bicycles by shoppers. For example, Safeway Stores plc has trialled cycle trailer hire schemes at selected stores across the country; Tesco plc has introduced a bike hod trailer scheme at its Chichester store, which is jointly run by Chichester District Council; and J Sainsbury plc has recently launched a pedicab service in North London. Most food retailers have secure bike racks at their stores. However, for many customers, managing a cycle while carrying a heavy shopping load is difficult and dangerous.

Home Delivery

  Home delivery is seriously being tested by many of the food retailers, however, home delivery will potentially have a limited impact on shopping trips, particularly mixed journeys, for some time to come. Home delivery has certain disadvantages: there will often be a mismatch between when the customer can be at home and when the retailer can deliver. This means that deliveries have to be time sensitive with at the most two hour slots when the food can be delivered; if there is no-one at the house when the food is delivered, then in most cases (certainly for perishable items) it cannot be left on the doorstep.

  Small vans have to be used due to the deliveries being in residential areas, where larger vehicles could not operate. The time sensitive nature of the deliveries makes it difficult for these vans to be loaded to full capacity when delivering and they have to make more journeys to and from the store with new deliveries. These vans would also create extra congestion as most deliveries are requested at the peak hours.

  Many families also prefer to inspect produce before purchasing, for example with fresh fruit to see that they are ripe, and also to look at what new products are currently available for them to buy.

  Some of those retailers involved in home delivery include the following: Iceland offers a free home delivery service for customers who spend more than £25 in the store with plans to become the first supermarket group to launch a nation-wide home delivery service. Marks & Spencer will deliver shopping from 20 of its stores for an additional £5. It also operates a home delivery service for wine, flowers and Christmas hampers. Somerfield will deliver shopping free from 38 of its stores if the spend is over £25, and it is hoped to be extended to more next year. Waitrose offers free home delivery for flowers. Wine orders over £75 are also delivered free. Sainsbury's orderline is currently on offer in 13 of their stores to Reward cardholders. This scheme allows shopping to be ordered via the Internet, phone or fax, with the order being collected from the store for £3.50. Sainsbury's will also deliver it the following day for £5.


  Retailers rely on their staff being able to get to work on time. The actual hours of work by retail staff is no longer 9am-5pm, but has become much more complex, with some stores now open around the clock, with shift patterns in place and part-time workers to cover peak periods. Stores also have night-time workers to do such things as re-stocking shelves and carrying emergency maintenance to stores. Retailers aim to reduce the amount of car movements created by the staff and a number have implemented policies to deal with this. For example, The Body Shop offers bicycle loans to its staff, at HMV music stores employees can buy bicycles at a 10 per cent discount and spread the payments using an interest-free loan up to £500.

Green Transport Plans

  Green Transport Plans are being considered by retailers not only at their head offices, but also at their stores. Many currently have ad hoc plans which are being developed so as to be extended across the country. The Boots Co. plc has introduced a commuter plan to reduce car commuting to its Nottingham headquarters by 10 per cent over three years and a further 10 per cent over the subsequent five years.

  With staff at stores working a number of different shift patterns the ability for them to use the public transport system to get to work is severely hampered. Sometimes they are left with no alternative but to use their car, unless they are travelling where there is a regular public transport service that runs not only at peak periods, but also outside those times. Retail staff are particularly concerned when travelling home at night, the safety aspect of the public transport system is crucial to them. There is perhaps, a need for them to pool experience with green transport plans to promote good practice.

Work Place Parking Tax

  The White Paper advocates the introduction of work place parking taxes. BRC notes that companies already pay rates for their car parking spaces, and so this would be a further tax. BRC believes that such at tax would have some merit, if it would affect all of industry and commerce. However, it is key that all the money raised from such a tax is ring fenced for transport matters, with no VAT going to the Treasury (VAT exempt or refunded). BRC is adamant that the public sector lead by example. BRC would like clarification on who would be expected to pay for the spaces, either the car user or company. If the company was to pay for the space, would this then be classed as a benefit for the individual? BRC calls for greater clarification.


  Deliveries are vitally important to the success of the retail industry. Most companies use state of the art logistic systems in order to manage vehicle scheduling and to ensure just in time deliveries, therefore eliminating the need to have large amounts of stock permanently held in store (enabling retailers to operate from smaller premises) and also reducing the number of vehicles on the road. The advent of the Regional Distribution Centres (RDCs) has ensured that the number of deliveries by individual suppliers direct to stores has fallen considerably. For example, in 1985 a Safeway store received on average 250 deliveries a week. With the arrival of RDCs the average Safeway store now receives only two or three RDC deliveries per day. It is also worth noting that commercial vehicles over 3.5 tonnes account for only 2 per cent of the total vehicle population.

Delivery Curfews

  BRC is concerned that the White Paper although acknowledging lifting delivery curfews would alleviate congestion in the morning and afternoon peak hours, fails to offer practical assistance with this major problem. Retailers want to be able to deliver outside the curfew times, if they were able to do so then it would alleviate congestion.

  The growing number of curfew restrictions means that essential road freight is being squeezed into the busiest parts of the day, adding to congestion. BRC is pleased that the Government has noted the "Delivering the Goods", a joint initiative on urban distribution by the Local Government Association and the Freight Transport Association.

  As a consequence of these delivery curfews, retailers have had to use more tractors and movements than actually necessary. For example Safeway has had to increase its fleet by up to 100 additional tractors and 170 additional trailers. The removal of curfews would see the Safeway tractor and trailer fleets reduced by 15 per cent. Moreover, these deliveries are having to take place during peak travelling times, stop-start travel during the day reduces fuel economy by about 10 per cent. Time-shifting of freight transport is, therefore, key to the success of an integrated transport policy.

Noise Reduction

  Modern vehicles are much quieter than their predecessors with technological improvements including quieter refrigeration systems, scissor lifts instead of tail lifts, air brake silencers, reversing alarm/automatic cut out, smoother running/rubberised surfacing trailer floors and cab radio automatic cut out. Driver and staff training is also carried out to ensure that noise is kept to a minimum. The argument that retail road freight is noisy is then somewhat lessened.

Back Haul Operations

  Retailers are at the forefront of ensuring that they are not running empty lorries back to their RDCs. Electrical retailers, after delivering new white goods such as fridges, take the old ones away. Safeway Stores plc is attempting to eliminate spare capacity in its returning delivery vehicles through back haul operations. Now after delivering to the store, a lorry may often collect goods from nearby suppliers and bring them back to the depot, saving suppliers a journey and supporting the local economy. Each year 60 million cases of products are back hauled by returning delivery vehicles from over 100 suppliers cutting distance travelled by suppliers 13 million kilometres. Tesco plc has recently introduced an Integrated Logistics Management campaign which involves supplier collection. Tesco plc lorries now use the return journey from store to depot to collect a load from a supplier. This has cut three million miles, increased vehicle utilisation by 20 per cent and reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 4,600 tonnes. Boots the Chemists plc has pursued a policy of using vehicles to backload goods from their retail outlets and from suppliers. Currently over 80 per cent of their vehicles returning from their Distribution Centres are being utilised.

Rail Transport

  Retailers are considering other modes of freight transport, primarily rail. Where it is a viable alternative retailers will consider the rail system. However, this is usually only appropriate for long distance distribution, for example from European suppliers to Regional Distribution Centres (RDCs). Rail freight is not suitable for the transportation of time critical products, those with high value and for distances of less than circa 200 miles. For example, Tesco Stores Ltd moves around 5 per cent of its total freight by rail. J Sainsbury plc and Safeway Stores plc have recently committed themselves to using rail transport for the distribution of goods within the UK. Safeway Stores plc was the first retailer in the UK to move volume products by rail. In the last 12 months they have taken 375 lorry movements off the road and replaced 131,000 road kilometres with rail. BRC calls on Local Authorities to understand that rail freight is only an alternative in limited circumstances and capacity will take time to grow.

Alternative Fuels

  Retailers are heavily involved in trialing and running their vehicles on alternative fuels. In late 1997 Marks & Spencer unveiled vehicles powered by liquefied gas, these vehicles emit a third of the level of nitrogen oxide and offer an 89 per cent reduction in particulates compared with a conventional diesel truck. Boots the Chemists plc over the past three years has trialled the use of both ultra-low sulphur diesel and LPG. Safeway Stores plc operates one of the largest HGV Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fleets in Europe servicing 50 stores in London and the Home Counties. These quieter vehicles have seen a reduction in Carbon Monoxide (CO) by 97 per cent, Total Hydrocarbons (THC) by 81 per cent and Particulate Matter by 94 per cent compared to a Euro 2 diesel engine. Retailers are being hampered in their progress in this area due to the lack of a national re-fuelling infrastructure for any of the new fuels. BRC would like to see the Government becoming more involved in this area, setting a clear policy for the use of such fuels.

  Retailers have invested much in reducing vehicle use and in employing new technology, and we are sure much of this expertise may be transferable to other sectors of industry as part of the push for greater UK competitiveness.


  The retail industry is a key component in the national economy and is totally dependent on an efficient transport network. Therefore, we welcome the publication of the White Paper and we are committed to working with central and local government to achieve improvements that will benefit all users of the system. However, we must remain mindful of the need to develop practical measures making the best of innovation and good practice, but, also to avoid actions which may undermine investment opportunities and job creation, particularly at the local level. That is why we are so concerned about the possible adverse implications of blanket congestion charging which may deter visitors and shoppers from going into town and city centres, particularly where alternatives to using the car will be some way off.

September 1998

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