A Technology Push Towards Sustainable Urban Freight Transport



A Technology Push Towards Sustainable Urban Freight Transport

Authors

VISSER J G S N and BINSBERGEN A J van, Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands

Description

In September 1997 the Dutch Governmental Programme for Sustainable Technology Development published a report on a new sustainable logistic concept for commodity transport within urban areas (Brouwer et al., 1997). This new logistic concept was based on au

Abstract

In September 1997 the Dutch Governmental Programme for Sustainable Technology Development published a report on a new sustainable logistic concept for commodity transport within urban areas (Brouwer et al., 1997). This new logistic concept was based on automated transport of commodities through small tube networks between shopping areas, residential areas and industrial estates and between regions. New long term prognoses for the national economy show an annual growth of more than 2 percent in domestic freight transport during the next 20 years. This will probably cause an increase in economic and social costs due to congestion and environmental problems related to road transport. The question was raised whether new intermodal concepts, based on rail or new dedicated infrastructures, will lead to a consolidation of transport flows and to a reduction of social costs. The question led to a research programme. The research programme focused on the feasibility of a modal shift in domestic freight transport, created by new logistic concepts. These new logistic concepts are based on inter-modality and dedicated infrastructures (road, rail or other) for freight transport within and between urban areas. The technical, logistic, economic and environmental aspects of these new concepts have to be studied.

The research programme pays particular attention to the concept of automated freight transport through pipelines. Automated freight transport through tubes concerns palletised or containerised consumer goods which are transported automatically through a new network of underground tunnels or tubes. The load units are relatively small, measuring approximately 1 cubic metre. This means that the tubes can be relatively small as well. No driver is needed. This new mode of transport is presented as an alternative for daily truck delivery. It has some interesting social benefits, for instance less nuisance, lower energy consumption and air pollution and a more economic use of space. Other benefits are fewer congestion problems, more reliable transport and reduced costs. On the other hand a new infrastructure has to be build which will be expensive and will take a long time to complete. There are no examples available elsewhere that demonstrate the costs and the benefits of such systems. One can therefore conclude that there are uncertainties which will be needed to be studied.

Part of the recent research in this field has been carried out by a team of transport consultants and researchers. This paper first introduces urban freight transport as a sustainability issue. The paper then focuses on the results of the good flow analysis, the technical analysis and the cost-benefit analysis that were carried out in this research programme. The paper explains in more detail how inter-modality in domestic commodity transport is able to change the logistic organisation of good flows. The paper ends with concluding remarks on the preconditions that must be established by technological innovation, land use policies and transport policy.

Publisher

Association for European Transport