Roger Sumner-Rivers, founder of pioneering international couriers ParcelHero, says that the new Mole Solutions system of underground freight delivery tubes being trialled in Northampton has the potential to reduce city traffic and reduce emissions significantly.
The new freight capsules would be powered by electricity producing magnetic fields to propel capsules along tracks. The technology is similar to the maglev rail system in use at some airports and being developed for mainline operation in China.
Says Roger: ‘This is clearly more than a pipe dream. A nine month trial of the Mole Urban Project has just been started and the supply chain industry is watching the results with interest. It’s been proven that home delivery reduces car journeys to shops and therefore traffic and emissions. An underground city-wide and inter-urban system of parcel and freight delivery to out of town freight hubs and key nodal links would further significantly reduce emissions. A tube system would operate under our homes and roads moving freight to out of town hubs, slashing traffic in towns and reducing CO2 emissions. ParcelHero has advocated out of town consolidation hubs for some time, and this looks to be an excellent way to improve these gains still further.’
Roger adds: ‘The delivery industry is constantly striving to reduce its carbon footprint ever further. Electric delivery vans, cycle delivery and other innovations are growing in use. ParcelHero recently urged the delivery industry to develop so called ‘urban mining’, delivering packages and then taking away waste items which contain valuable components for recycling, such as old PCs and TVs. The Mole Urban project capsules, collecting these items from freight hubs, are ideally suited to this role. In addition to Mole Primary, which delivers pallet and tote loads ideally suited for retailers using city freight hubs, the idea can also be used for Mole bulk, using trunk pipe networks built alongside existing infrastructure, which can also take away other waste, such as biomass, as well as deliver heavy ores and minerals. This will cut down on HGV loads, again reducing congestion. ’
Roger says: ‘ParcelHero was very sad to see the so called Mail Rail close. The Post Office Railways was a narrow gauge tube railway that ran below London delivering the capital’s parcels. It was operated by Royal Mail and ran between Paddington and Whitechapel up until 2003 when changes to the way Royal Mail operated meant it didn’t fit Royal Mail’s new delivery operations. Imagine the number of Royal Mail vans it would reduce today. Surely it’s an existing infrastructure crying out for the new Mole approach, even if it is to a smaller loading gauge.’
Roger concludes: ‘The Mole system is ambitious, and the initial infrastructure cost considerable, but when weighed against the real environmental costs of congestion, underground pipes are an idea that was bound to surface at some time.’