Urban freight transport sustainability - the interaction of urban freight and intermodal transport

University dissertation from Chalmers University of Technology

Abstract: Intermodal road-rail transport (IRRT) has a significant urban dimension that affects the environmental benefits and the modal shift potential of rail freight. A sustainable modal shift, i.e., growth in rail freight without negative consequences for the sustainability of urban areas, can only be achieved by appropriate actions that demonstrate an understanding of the urban context within which IRRT takes place. The purpose of this thesis is to explore the interactions between urban freight transport and IRRT and their implications for urban sustainability and modal shift strategies. This research combines empirical case studies to develop a framework for sustainable urban freight transport, and conceptual and analytical research to assess the potential of different measures to enhance the sustainability of IRRT, including: (i) the regulatory framework for pre- and post haulage vehicles to improve cost efficiency; (ii) fast and efficient transhipments to increase the accessibility of rail freight; and (iii) the urban spatial structure to reduce the local impacts of IRRT. The application of the framework on IRRT identifies the potential of integrating urban freight and modal shift strategies. Local authorities therefore have an important role to play if a sustainable modal shift is to be achieved. However, they often do not have sufficient logistics competence to integrate freight transport and urban sustainability strategies. The framework can guide urban planners on how to overcome the existing shortcomings in urban transport planning. It also illustrates the benefits of a rail-adapted urban planning for local sustainability, which can encourage cities to include rail freight in their sustainable development strategies. From a theoretical perspective, the identified interactions and potentials of an integrated approach provide the context for studies going beyond the usual scope of either urban freight or IRRT focusing on the interaction between these two areas. This thesis therefore contributes to the integration of these streams of research.

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