TRL and Magway to develop underground goods delivery ‘pipeline’ concept


The UK’s Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) is partnering with Magway, which is developing a revolutionary ‘delivery pipeline’ to transport parcels, improving air quality and reducing congestion by removing a significant number of logistics vehicles from highways and urban areas.

With the new partnership, TRL is continuing its strategic aim in helping businesses to develop new, innovative technologies and services that can shape future mobility and benefit society. The TRL team will provide Magway with its deep expertise in independent trial design, monitoring and evaluation, as the new company explores the real-world possibilities of its radical logistics concept. Addressing the multiple environmental and infrastructure challenges caused by the explosive growth in e-commerce (internet-based retail) deliveries, Magway has won co-funding support from the Innovate UK agency via its Emerging and Enabling Technologies Competition. Adding to Magway’s seed funding round and other match funding from industry partners, the £650,000 (US$860,000) Innovate UK grant enables the build of an operational demonstrator to illustrate how a full-scale ‘tube-delivery’ system will operate. Magway’s project consortium partners comprise of Ocado, Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation, Space Syntax, Force Engineering, and TRL.

Magway is a ‘delivery utility’, delivering parcels between distribution centers and consolidation hubs via underground pipelines, similar to those used by water, gas and electricity companies. The solution could significantly reduce the volume of Heavy Goods Vehicles (trucks) from the road UK network, which should substantially decrease the resultant emissions, accidents and costs associated with the maintenance of roads. At the same time, it enables e-tailers (electronic retailers) to better service customers, improving flexibility and reliability at a reduced cost for outwards orders, as well as returns.

Magway combines technology from high-voltage distribution and high-speed transport systems and design from professional cycling and motor sports. It aims to install multiple pipelines across the UK and internationally. The initial link alone, proposed from Milton Keynes to Park Royal, has the potential to transport more than 600 million parcels a year. If the expected benefits can be validated, a full-scale roll-out could eliminate millions of tonnes of CO2 emissions annually, save millions of pounds worth of road maintenance costs, and transform the road network as it currently exists.

“We are continually seeking to innovate, evaluate and help safely deploy new mobility solutions that can improve society,” explained Rob Wallis, CEO of TRL. “Magway’s delivery utility pipeline is an exciting proposition with potential to deliver amazing benefits for businesses, and ultimately society. In our experience, innovation can sometimes be very hard to deliver, but working with the creative insights of the team at Magway and the wider project consortium is a real opportunity to create new thinking for the freight logistics sector.”

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Rachelle joined Traffic Technology International in early 2016 after having worked for an HR magazine and prior to that, as a freelance sub editor for various lifestyle consumer magazines. As deputy editor, she supports the editor in making each issue and updating the website. Outside of work, she enjoys tap dancing, playing the piano and video games, and eating spicy food.