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Improved freight forwarding for historic city centres


Historic cities such as Siena, Aalborg and many ‘old towns’ within larger conurbations suffer excessively from the congestion and pollution that 21st century transport brings. You can ban the cars, but what about the problem of delivery vans and trucks? Researchers hope they have an answer.

Under the European Commission’s IST programme, the EDRUL pilot project investigated and tested an innovative e-logistics platform and services to manage freight distribution in such urban areas. The project partners specifically designed the initiative with historic centres in mind, and four European cities (Siena, Lisbon, Aalborg and Eindhoven) were enrolled in the programme.

EDRUL looked specifically at how to improve the management of freight forwarding for urban areas where vehicular access is restricted. The partners developed a kind of Web agency to provide portal access for booking deliveries and load exchange in such areas.

“If a long-distance freight forwarder had, say, less than 60 per cent of its load destined for an address in the city, they would deliver it instead to a freight hub outside the city centre,” says Marco Boero of Softeco Sismat in Genoa, one of the project partners. “From there, small vans and trucks, often electric or LPG-fuelled vehicles, would deliver to the final destination.”

The online platform was tested as a working pilot in two cities, Siena and Lisbon. The software was also showcased in Aalborg and a feasibility study carried out in Eindhoven. In Siena for example, the project won enthusiastic support from the city parking organisation Siena Parcheggi, as well as the local ‘freight taxi’ company Cotas. The largest Italian national freight forwarder Bartolini was also involved in the project.

Thanks to the cooperation of these organisations, a major success of the Siena pilot was the ‘Park & Buy’ service, which enabled individuals who had walked into the pedestrianised city centre to buy a heavy item and have it delivered to a collection point in their car park. The booking and delivery to the car park was organised by the shop selling the item. The shops involved (some 20 in all) were all enthusiastic supporters of Park & Buy, as it enabled them to offer an additional service to customers.

EDRUL finished in January 2005, and the results are now being considered by Siena city council for potential incorporation into their next transport plan. Certain of the project partners have also launched a successor project, supported by the EU Life programme, in the Tuscan city of Lucca, another municipality with severe restrictions on transport access. This two-year initiative, called CEDM (Centre for Eco-Friendly City Freight Distribution), started in November 2005.

Softeco Sismat also has the intention to develop the platform into a commercial product, states Boero. The system (which is Open Source) would be aimed at town planners and city development authorities as the primary market, he says.

Tara Morris | alfa
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