DHL to move urgent mail by speedboat

I’ve been meaning to check up on this story since I read it a couple of weeks ago.

The story as a whole is quite interesting and just goes to show that high fuel prices and congestion can certainly help to focus minds on getting freight off the roads. It was this line that caught my interest though: “international courier firm DHL is looking to move urgent mail from central London to Heathrow by speedboat to avoid congestion in the capital.”

I’ve been unable to find out any more information on DHL’s proposed scheme, an email to their Press Office went unanswered, but it’s certainly an intriguing possibility. However, I looked into the feasibility of a scheme like this a few months ago and quickly discounted the idea as being of little value to the same day courier industry or to any other sector of the express delivery business.

While a speedboat would certainly avoid some road congestion, it’s never going to be able to deliver direct to Heathrow because Heathrow isn’t on the river. So a van, or bikes, would be needed at both ends to transfer the ‘urgent mail’ from the collection point(s) to the speedboat and then from the speedboat to the cargo centre at Heathrow. It’s not clear where the loading and off-loading points would be, but for “central London to Heathrow” I can only imagine somewhere off Lower Thames Street (EC3) and somewhere around the Brentford/Kew Bridge area at the ‘Heathrow’ end; that’s 10 miles by van or bike or 13 miles by water.

So on the face of it DHL might have hit upon a sound idea, a ‘speedboat’ must be able to travel 13 miles on the open water faster than a van, or even a motorbike, can travel 10 miles on congested London roads, mustn’t it?

Well perhaps, but the Thames above Wandsworth Bridge has a speed limit of 9.2mph and it’s 7 miles from Wandsworth Bridge to Kew Bridge – that’s a minimum of 45 minutes. In addition there are plans to introduce a 13.8mph speed limit for the rest of the journey, so that’s another 26 minutes minimum. So an absolute minimum of 71 minutes for the speedboat to get from central London to Kew Bridge plus the time taken to carry out the 2 transhipments from road to water and back again, while ensuring that relevant Aviation Security rules are adhered to, and however long it takes for the ‘urgent mail’ to be delivered and collected by van(s) or bike(s).

While this might be a bit of good publicity for DHL and the sight of a speedboat in full DHL livery passing the Houses of Parliament will certainly make a good publicity shot, I suspect that it will do nothing to reduce DHL’s delivery times from central London, nor will it do much to reduce congestion on London’s roads or reduce DHL’s carbon footprint.

Posted under Fuel Prices, Uncategorized

Posted by Alec at 12:12 pm, August 25, 2008

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