UK parcel delivery firms have been shaping up their preparations for the London Olympics this summer, which is expected to bring all manner of traffic flow issues to threaten disruptions.
For customers during the event, many parcel firms look likely to apply extra surcharges to cover the changes being made to their normal operations.
Delivery companies have been coordinating with local transport authority Transport for London and officials from the Olympics organising committee for more than a year to assess and mitigate challenges posed by the event in July and August.
With transport a major concern for the smooth running of the Olympic Games in London, Transport for London has designed a special 109-mile “Olympic Route Network” (ORN) and “Paralympic Route Network” (PRN) to allow participants to travel efficiently between event venues.
The ORN will be active from 25th July to 14th August, while the PRN will be active from 27th August to 11th September, with each expected to cover 2.6% of London’s roads, adding a wide range of traffic flow modifications including signal modifications, waiting restrictions and check points.
Communications with customers will be a crucial part of the entire process, while customers of many delivery firms look likely to face additional surcharges and delivery fees, particularly when shipping items to and from Olympics-affected post codes.
Pick-up times are also likely to change for affected areas.
Items going to Olympic venues themselves will face additional security screening requirements – and extra surcharges to cover it.
Parcel carrier DPD said its dedicated Olympics Project Team of 25 specialists has developed a plan for the Games to avoid 50 key “lockdown zones” where traffic is expected to be restricted.
The company, part of La Poste’s GeoPost Group, has produced a detailed matrix of affected postcodes and dates for these lockdown zones. Affected routes will be double-manned to help cope with disruptions and restrictions, with assistants to complete journeys on foot where necessary.
Its plans will see special Olympics Specialists available at each impacted depot, focusing only on gathering information each day regarding route adjustments, allowing DPD to respond quickly to disruptions.
A dedicated Olympic Customer Service team will also be in place to help communicate with customers.
DPD is planning to use UPS to screen and deliver parcels going to “lockdown” venues because of the enhanced security around those sites. These parcels will incur a GBP 28 surcharge per parcel, along with a special Olympic delivery charge.
“DPD has and will continue to invest a significant amount of money to ensure that service levels are maintained to the best of our abilities in and around the impacted areas,” the company said in a statement.
“We cannot absorb these costs, and will be introducing a surcharge for deliveries into the Olympic congestion zone area.”
Yodel, the firm that took over the domestic parcels business of DHL Express in the UK, has now said its contingency plans are ready, covering a 120-day period that also takes in the Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations.
As well as London arrangements, the company said its plans take into account the 11 sporting venues outside London as well as the route of the Olympic torch, which is set to pass within 10 miles of 95% of the UK population.
Yodel, which has set up its own “Yodel Olympic Village HQ” at its Vauxhall Service Centre to coordinate the plans, said it is now carrying out scenario testing.
Marija Simovic, the COO at Yodel, said: “This is a summer of celebration in Britain, from the Queen’s jubilee in June through to closure of the Olympic Park in September.
“There is a great deal of excitement in the run-up to the games and we’ve been planning well in advance to ensure that our deliveries run smoothly for our clients and their customers throughout this period.”
Leeds-based Hermes is developing contingency plans through its Hermes Olympic Committee, overseen by operations director Liam Tucker.
The company said it expected its service to be “severely impacted” by enforced road restrictions and closures around Olympic venues in London.
“We believe this could impact up to 10,000 individual parcel deliveries each day,” said commercial director Jon Tobbell.
“We are planning to undertake trials of our operational solution for delivery of parcels, within the constraints as we believe they will be proposed in early 2012.”
London-based express delivery company City Link said last week it was expecting “major challenges” from traffic congestion in delivering parcels in the affected areas.
The company said: “We have been working with Transport for London to understand what the restrictions are and have been developing our own plans for the period.”
City Link, which has recently announced plans to expand its same-day delivery services in London with the addition of two new vehicles, said it may have to cancel some services in Olympics-affected areas during the event.
The company is warning customers that collection times could change for customers in affected areas.
“It is likely we will be forced to suspend timed services in affected areas in London and around other Olympic venues,” it said in a statement, suggesting no same-day services will be available for affected areas, although Next Day delivery will be available.
City Link, owned by services company Rentokil Initial, said it is planning to apply a surcharge for consignments delivered within affected postcode areas during the Olympics.
Parcel terminal network ByBox said on Friday that the traditional parcel delivery model was going to “struggle” during the Olympics, and said customers of conventional carriers in affected areas would face extra costs as a result.
Stuart Miller, the ByBox chief executive, said: “Companies which through no fault of their own are situated in areas affected by the road closures will find themselves paying surcharges for deliveries as carriers are bound to incur extra costs.”
Miller said his company is expecting a “surge of interest” in its service, which sees deliveries made during the night to 18,000 drop boxes at 1,400 locations around the UK.
The company also has Olympics plans ready to roll, and will be doubling the number of vans on certain routes, while bringing forward collection times for some customers in affected areas.
“Customers will soon be asking if there is not a better way to receive their deliveries,” said Miller. “At a time when many companies will be busier than ever before, ByBox will help ensure that vital parts will get to them in time.”
Source: James Cartledge, Post&Parcel