Dutch plan to use railways for city logistics

There are opportunities for combining passenger and freight transport in passenger trains. The Dutch Ministry of IenW and ProRail have commissioned TU Delft, TNO, and Royal HaskoningDHV to investigate the feasibility. The study indicates that implementation could be possible from 2030 (until 2050).

We need to approach mobility differently in terms of space and energy use. Improved infrastructure capacity utilization and active transportation modalities offer opportunities for this purpose.

Components include:

  • Modalities are organized as alternatives to each other (synchro-modality), and each modality is efficiently utilized (based on integral objectives and public frameworks).
  • Modalities are organized to complement each other (multi-modality) in the travel or transportation chain, providing seamless connections.
  • Nodes are organized as effective transfer and transshipment points (mobility hubs).
  • Digitization and other innovation opportunities are utilized to strengthen the mobility and transportation network.

Public transportation is considered a significant mode of transport because it can efficiently transport large volumes of passengers with limited space and energy consumption. Public transport operates on a fixed schedule. Existing passenger trains have a fixed transport function and capacity that is maximized during peak hours. Structurally and throughout the day, the average occupancy is only 30%.

The flexible combination of passenger and freight transport in multifunctional trains, as described in the TurboPlan2030, is a new mobility concept. It utilizes the existing, structurally present unused capacity of transportation space in rail passenger transport in a flexible, demand-driven manner for transporting suitable types of goods.

It can thus add a new transportation modality for freight transport that allows for more efficient and smarter use of space and energy and could contribute to better accessibility and livability of city centers and rural areas.

The pressure on space and the desire to move logistics outside the city center are significant. Therefore, theoretically, mixing goods and passengers on the rail could achieve synergy. Logistics entering the city center are captured and transported into the city with a vehicle already in operation. Smaller vehicles can then be deployed from the transshipment points (at stations) to move the fragmented flows through the city center.

The hybrid concept utilizes the availability, reliability, and robustness of public transport schedules. With cargo pods (small modular transportation units, as known from the Physical Internet concept), cargo bundling from different shippers in the same train can easily be achieved based on a point-to-point one-way trip. Combined with the already extensive coverage of stations in the Netherlands and subsequent pre- and/or post-transport, this can offer new opportunities for shippers and carriers.

Amsterdam Parool spoke with the researchers. A first pilot is already possible in the short term on the route between Rotterdam, Gouda, Woerden, Breukelen, and Amsterdam. Near the route, in Waddinxveen, a Lekkerland distribution center can supply the cargo pods to the trains. That distribution center can supply various food and retail chains at the mentioned stations, such as Julia’s, Kiosk, and Smullers.

Read also: Traveling Together – About Integration of Passenger and Freight Transport

Read more about the plans for urban logistics in London by train.

Source: Ministry of IenW

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