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More flexible access for cleaner freight traffic

Utrecht

Freight traffic is a major contributor to deteriorating air quality and rising greenhouse gas and noise emissions. The city of Utrecht aimed to develop an advanced access system that stimulates the use of cleaner freight vehicles.

Implementing sustainable mobility

Freight traffic is one of the main causes of air pollution in city centres. Activities to reduce emissions from freight vehicles can thus be very effective to improve the overall air quality. In 2007, Utrecht introduced a low-emission zone in the city centre. Only freight vehicles with ‘cleaner’ engines can enter this zone. With cameras and license plate registration these restrictions are effectively enforced. This measure already resulted in a decrease in emissions. In cooperation with the transport businesses, Utrecht investigated additional possibilities to improve air quality in the city in the frame of the CIVITAS MIMOSA project and implemented the ‘flexible access for cleaner freight traffic’. This measure aimed at reducing PM10 and NOx emissions from road freight traffic and improving the accessibility of the city centre for cleaner means of transport. This reduction has been achieved through increased usage of more sustainable freight vehicles and more energy efficient freight distribution.

Utrecht provided incentives for particularly clean freight vehicles to:
• Reduce emissions from road freight traffic, especially PM10 and NOx emissions;
• Improve air quality; and
• Improve accessibility of the city centre for quiet freight transport that is cleaner than the minimum level required for entering the low-emission zone.

How did the measure progress?

In the first phase of the project, Utrecht has undertaken research to determine a package of actions to improve air quality in the low-emissions zone. This was done in cooperation with the private sector and resulted in an implementation plan in early 2010. The plan provides an overview over possible measures and specifies next steps to be taken.
Four activities were chosen to be implemented. The first one, a long and narrow electric mini-train, the 'Cargohopper', started operating in 2009. It is an excellent example of the kind of sustainable urban freight logistics that Utrecht wants to stimulate. The city granted the Cargohopper various exemptions and it soon supplied 40 to 50 delivery addresses in the city centre a day. In summer 2010, solar panels were placed on the roof of the Cargohopper, which supply the train with solar power for eight to nine months a year. In the remaining time, it runs on green electricity. The Cargohopper has the capacity to do deliveries of five vans.
Experience with the Cargohopper demonstrated that more can be achieved in terms of out of town material bundling centres and ‘just in time’ deliveries. It was so successful that in autumn 2011 the Cargohopper II was launched, a vehicle capable of loading up to 10 euro pallets. It can go up to 50 km/h and can travel 250 km without recharging. Bigger cities like Amsterdam, Enschede and Amersfoort have already taken the Cargohopper concept on board.

In the next stage, an implementation plan for flexible access for cleaner freight traffic was drawn up. The main objective of this measure was to give benefits to transport companies that use 'super clean' vehicles to persuade them to purchase these types of vehicles. In this case, ‘super clean’ means vehicles that are cleaner than the EURO5/EEV/EEV+ norm.

Starting January 2010 two following measures have been implemented. The first measure consists on giving permission to clean and very quiet freight vehicles to deliver during the night. The second measure was to allow freight vehicles the use of bus lanes. For this later measure, the results of the evaluation led to the decision to extend the pilot project to a larger area.  At this stage of the project, the measures identified in the Implementation Plan are still in the process of implementation. The results of the evaluation are therefore focused on the impacts which can be attributed to the implementation of the Cargohopper.

What were the outcomes of the measure?

To conduct the evaluation, several indicators have been used to measures these impacts: a decrease of 4080 freight vehicle trips can be observed during CIVITAS MIMOSA, which corresponds to the saving of 88332 kilometres driven by diesel van or light truck. This in term resulted in a reduction of 5,8 tonnes of CO2 emission (-73%), of 0.005 tonnes NOx emission (-27%) and 0.001 tonnes PM10 emission (-56%).
In the frame of the impact evaluation of Cargohopper measure, a cost-benefit analysis was also conducted. The cost-benefit analysis showed that the Cargohopper yields an economic benefit of about €65,000, which means it is cost-neutral for its lifespan. Cost-benefit analysis showed that the Cargohopper contributes to a reduction in emissions and noise pollution, and increase in safety and overall liveability in the city centre. Also the service seems to be financially rewarding for the operator of the service.

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