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Urban freight transport policies and measures implemented in strategic documents of European cities – a review

Tomislav Letnik, Maršenka Marksel, Stane Božičnik Ph.D. University of Maribor FGPA, Smetanova 17 2000 Maribor, Slovenia 

Giuseppe Luppino, Andrea Bardi Institute for Transport and Logistics – ITL Viale Aldo Moro 38 40127 Bologna, Italy 

This article examines the existence of policies and measures for sustain-able urban freight transport in European cities. The desktop analysis shows an extremely heterogeneous situation of logistics and mobility planning policies and planning documents adopted in Europe. Cities are mainly opting for soft measures with high impact on savings. Only few measures directly promoting energy savings were identified, while on the other hand various measures with indirect impact on energy con-sumption were recognized. 

The research for this article was done within the project SULPiTER, co-financed by the Interreg Central Europe program of the EU. 

European transport policy aims to foster decarbonisation of transport through gradual implementation of various measures to be achieved by 2050: no more conventionally-fuelled cars in cities, 40% share of sustain-able low carbon fuels in aviation; at least 40% emissions decrease in ship-ping, 50% shift of intercity passenger and freight journeys from road to rail and waterborne transport on medium distances. Given that 25% of emis-sions of transport in the EU originates in urban areas, towns and cities play the key role in mitigating the negative effects of transport. Many cities are currently implementing “Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans” (SUMPs), which are mainly dedicated to mobility of passengers. In most cases freight transport has not been considered or has been addressed only partially. 

In the absence of clear guidelines for addressing urban freight issues, cities have adopted diverse strategic documents and measures. Consequently, we today lack understanding about the structure of the implemented ur-ban freight policy measures in the European cities and their efficiency. In particular this holds good also for the field of sustainable energy use and mitigation of CO2 emissions caused by the city logistic operations. To over-come this problem EC has set a very ambitious goal of CO2-free city logis-tics by 2030 and initiated the concept of “Sustainable Urban Logistics Plans” (SULPs) aiming to comprehensively address also urban freight issues. 

Urban freight delivery is a very complex process faced with numerous is-sues that need to be solved in order to perform efficient services for cus-tomers. Deliveries are on one hand subject to various characteristics of urban areas, and on the other hand to dynamically changing expectations of customers. To cope with this complexity and with problems of increas-ing traffic volume, energy consumption, emissions and congestion, various transport policy measures are adopted in cities around the world. Accord-ing to our knowledge, no methodology for identification of logistics plan-ning documents and classification of them according to their maturity level exists in literature. 

European cities included in the analysis have been selected according to their size and other relevant characteristics. The main idea was to examine a diverse sample. In addition the focus was not only on city centres but on the wider territory aspect of Functional Urban Areas (FUAs), consisting of the city core and its commuting zone. In view of all these aspects, 129 cities have been selected for the analysis. 

The identified strategic documents of European cities were classified into five main categories: 

  • SUMPs without city logistics measures; 
  • Mobility plan documents with city logistics measures; 
  • SUMPs with city logistics measures; 
  • Logistics plans; 
  • SULPs. 

SULP is the most comprehensive document specifically devoted to logistics issues in urban areas. Logistics plans are similar to SULP, for they are in the whole extend devoted to logistics issues and the only difference to SULP is that they have been implemented before SULP methodology was available. The logistics plans structure is therefore not standardised, and they are therefore considered as slightly less relevant. SUMPs are in general tackling all mobility issues, and freight transport is often omitted or is only partially mentioned. SUMPs with city logistics measures are therefore next on the scale of relevant documents. Mobility plan documents introduced before SUMP methodology exist and are therefore a bit less relevant than SUMPs. Finally, we tried to identify SUMPs implemented but not containing any logistics issues. This option is on the bottom of our evaluation scale. If the SUMPs are not dealing with logistics that means logistics issues are not recognised as relevant, revealing that the cities stick to old, uncomplete, planning patterns. 

The results of the analysis of documents, identified in the panel of cities, are presented in Figure 1. 

In the next phase, the panel of cities was reduced to 30 cities with well-developed and adopted logistics planning documents and measures. In these cities in total 158 measures were identified. These measures were reviewed in detail. Out of 158 measures 58 measures of the best practice character and with enough available data were selected. The selected measures were grouped into 10 types that have been used for detailed analysis. The main criteria for final selection of measures was application suitability of the measure not only to the city centre but also to the City FUA level. The following measures have been identified: 

  • Off street loading bays 
  • Cargo bikes 
  • Clean fuels and vehicles 
  • Spatial planning for logistics 
  • Freight routes 
  • Delivery and servicing plans 
  • Mobile depots 
  • Of peak deliveries 
  • By boat logistics 
  • Urban distribution centres 

As can be seen from Table 1, Brussels and Paris are the most advanced among all of the analysed cities with 5 different measures adopted in the strategic transport policy documents. The majority of cities, 14 out of 30, have planned to implement Urban Consolidation Centres. Among the most popular measures are also clean fuels and vehicles (planned in 9 cities) and cargo bikes (planned in 7 cities). 

The main characteristic of a measure also defines its applicability. For better understanding the measures in the Table 2 below, measures are qualitatively benchmarked in the sequel (counting the number of measures belonging to a specific category) with reference to: 

  • category of measure, 
  • territorial level of applicability, 
  • investment and operational costs, 
  • savings. 

Based on their main purpose, measures can be categorised into the following groups: regulation, technology, infrastructure, service, industrial / econo-mic, urban planning and energy. Regulation measures are mainly imposed by the city authorities to regulate or modify users’ behaviour. Technology measures are strictly related to technological development, which is implemented to improve efficiency of the urban freight delivery processes. Service oriented measures are focused to improvement of logistics-oriented services in urban areas and are mainly dedicated to logistics operators. Industrial or economic measures are to be understood as incentives for business entities, which are indirectly providing solutions or tools for efficient urban deliveries. Urban planning measures are oriented towards positioning of logistics infrastructure and facilities in urban areas. Energy measures are primarily dedicated to energy savings and achievement of energy efficiency. 

From the spatial point of view, measures can be focused to the strict city centre (e.g. pedestrian – low emission zones), to the specific part of the city (e.g. industrial or residential area) or to the entire Functional urban area (e.g. eco norms for freight delivery vehicles in urban areas). 

Successful implementation of measures is in many cases related to the volume of investment needed for their implementation. The lower the need for investment, the bigger is the possibility for implementation of the measure. The so-called soft measures (e.g. communication measures, organizational measures …) are often preferred by the policy makers over hard or investment-oriented measures (e.g. building new street, new logistics terminal). 

Crucial criteria for the measure implementation are savings. The bigger the savings, the bigger is the possibility and the need for measure implementation. Savings can be measured in time (e.g. shorter delivery time), costs (e.g. savings in delivery costs for transport operator), CO2 emissions (e.g. savings of emissions imposed from delivery vehicles) and energy (e.g. savings of energy needed for delivery). 

The majority of measures under consideration in Table 2 is categorised as regulatory or service measures. The reason is that the city authorities, with the aim to regulate and optimise the urban freight, predominantly impose these measures. It should be noted that only one of all selected measures is predominantly focused on energy issues. Clean vehicles and fuels are the only measures dealing directly with energy policy issues in urban areas. At the same time, several other measures have indirect impact on energy use. Benefits are due to optimisation of transport flows (e.g. fuel savings), introduction of clean vehicles for logistics operations (e.g. electric mobility) or modal shift (e.g. use of transport means with lower energy impact). 

The analysed measures are less frequently applied outside of city centres and more frequently in city centres and/or in specific areas within the city. It may be concluded that problems are much more severe in the city centres, which in Europe are very often old, historical centres. The volume of needed investments reveals that 6 out of 10 analysed measures demonstrate low investment needs. 

Very interesting results are shown in the lower part of the Table 2, where savings of the implemented measures are assessed. The majority of the measures under consideration (6 out of 10) belongs to the category of low investment needs. But, on the other side, the expected savings are on the medium to high level. It may be concluded that cities are focusing on soft measures (low costs, low investments), which are expected to bring optimal (medium/high) results. 

Presented case studies of different European cities in the last part of the article have shown that well selected measures and/or their optimal combination can substantially decrease the energy consumption and CO2 footprint. Single measures can bring on average about 20-30% savings while their optimal combination could result even in about 60-70% saving. We can conclude that with optimal combination of measures, cities can contribute to gradual realisation of the EU Commission’s aim of CO2 free city. Standardisation of approaches in the cities, as well as on the functional urban areas level, is needed and recommended. 

Energy aspects are currently only partially addressed under the framework of urban freight models. Linking of energy and transport models is already possible, provided statistics and data are available. In general, transport models are to be considered as basis for generating inputs to energy models and not vice versa.