This wheel’s on fire – the small measures keeping Sydney’s CBD in deliveries

Courier Paul Tubert at the Goulburn Street Courier Hub. The state government has established a free “courier hub” for courier companies to use. They truck goods into the hub, put them in a cage, and then use bike couriers to get the goods across the city. Thursday 11th January 2018. SMH photo Louie Douvis .Amid Sydney’s latest batch of transport woes it can be easy to overlook that sometimes the best-laid plans work out tolerably well.

When construction started on Sydney’s light rail line two years ago, authorities were keen to foreshadow the worst.

Traffic would be slower; the roads would be a nightmare; it might be best to delay your trip.

The thinking behind the campaign was to try to convince Sydney residents to avoid driving into the city centre whenever they could.

Two years on, the strategy seems a success.

“Traffic in the morning and afternoon peak is actually pretty good here in the city,” said Marg Prendergast, the co-ordinator-general of Transport Co-ordination at Transport for NSW.

“Your busiest time is midday, with all the deliveries.”

Those deliveries, however, remain one of the inner city’s main transport challenges.

Not only has there been an increase in the number of goods being delivered, but the government also removed 12 per cent of the city’s loading zones for the light rail.

The risk was that delivery vehicles, unable to find a loading zone, would have to circle for a park, adding to congestion.

One of the ways the government has tried to manage this risk is by encouraging delivery companies to use bicycles when the job allows.

To that end, the state government and the City of Sydney have for the past two years provided a free “Courier Hub” for mid-size transport companies to use in the Goulburn Street car park.

The hub, which consists of a few cages, lockers, and parking spots, allows firms a potentially cheaper way to deliver goods by car to Goulburn Street, where they can then be transported by bike.

“There are fewer cars in the CBD as a result of it,” said Ely Benchoam, the dispatch centre manager at Bonds Transport Group.

When the Herald visited the hub last week, car drivers were dropping off parcels – mostly for law firms – from the suburbs, which Paul Tubert, a bike courier of some 12 years’ experience, would carry through town.

“Sometimes it will be the major proportion of the work you do,” said Mr Tubert, of jobs originating or finished in the hub. “For the cars, it’s a nightmare for them to get into the city.”

According to Ms Prendergast, the usage of CBD loading zones has dropped 9 per cent during the day.

The transport challenge has not lessened – “most of our drivers have said they don’t like coming into the city,” said Mr Benchoam, “we’ve had occasions when they have refused to come into the city” – but it might mean daytime delivery patterns are shifting.

“We’re showing them the evidence,” said Roads Minister Melinda Pavey. “Then [delivery companies] are saying, ‘why do we have to come into the city between 9am and 1pm to fight with everybody else.”

Until the next new thing.

“In the future, ultimately we’ll have drones,” Ms Prendergast said.