VANS should be charged for making deliveries at peak hours in a bid to help beat congestion, a transport guru has said.
Professor David Begg, former Edinburgh transport convener and an adviser to national and local government, said van traffic had risen faster than any other vehicle type.
And he argued charges could encourage delivery companies to drop off goods to people at their homes in the evenings rather than at city centre offices during peak periods.
But the plan was criticised by the small business sector as an attempt to “turn back the clock”.
Prof Begg said van miles had increased by 24 per cent over ten years and 73 per cent over 20 years.
He said: “Vans have a disproportionate effect on congestion. They tend to stop and start, they have to park to make deliveries, which has a knock-on effect on traffic.”
And he blamed the rapid growth in delivery vans on the rise of online shopping.
“Often parcels are coming to the office at peak hours whereas customers would prefer deliveries in the evening at home,” he said.
“We need to consider charging delivery vehicles for travelling at peak periods to incentivise them to deliver in the evenings. People would have to pay more to get parcels at peak times, but it would be win-win for everyone because customers would prefer deliveries at home in the evening and we get traffic off the road at the busiest times.”
Prof Begg said London could adopt such a measure by imposing a supplement on the existing congestion charge, but that cities like Edinburgh could do it by introducing a permit system for delivery vans.
He said the charge could be limited to vans of a certain size – for example, under five tonnes – to avoid hitting major shop deliveries.
But Gordon Henderson of the Federation of Small Businesses said the idea was “ridiculous”.
He said: “At a time when delivery companies are experimenting with almost immediate deliveries, he is wanting to turn back the clock. Edinburgh is already bringing in 20mph limits and making it impossible to park your car. It’s almost as if they feel they have brought in every conceivable control on cars, and now they want to move on to vans.”
Prof Begg said there would have to be extensive consultation before any such measure was introduced.
The city council said it had no plans to introduce the charge. Transport leader Lesley Hinds said: “We have a number measures in space to reduce the impact of deliveries and large goods vehicles on traffic. In the centre, we restrict deliveries to quieter hours during the night, while our trade waste pilot has introduced limited time windows for the collection of business’ rubbish, reducing street clutter and traffic build-up.”