A new approach to cargo trams is under testing in Frankfurt/Main, in combination with e-cargo bikes. The tram brings containers (‘micro depots’) to various points in the city, where they are loaded on special e-bike trailers for further last mile distribution.
The cargo trams, some with cargo trailers, would run without passengers at quiet times on the network. Delivery service Hermes Germany is taking part in this project, along with the city of Frankfurt, House of Logistics & Mobility, the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences, IHK Frankfurt am Main and the Climate Alliance.
Many specialists are sceptical about the added value of such a system, quoting congestion on tram routes: Unloading time at several stops soon adds up. On typical tram routes, there is no chance for other trams to bypass. This would soon lead to congestion. Furthermore, the available trams usually are busy through peak hours. Tram dimensions and seat arrangement limit the available space for cargo containers.
However, in a certain way, Frankfurt may be an exception to the rule. The specific advantage of Frankfurt is that most of its downtown tram lines now run underground. The remaining surface track in the inner city typically sees no more than one tram in four minutes per average, even in peak hours, which is much less than the utilization of downtown trunk lines in other big systems. On the other hand, at such big cities, there always is a chance to set aside an old tram that no longer fits for passenger transport but can continue for many years in the low-mileage service of goods distribution. In this case, it would even make sense to remove the seats.