Sustainable Freight Transport from an Urban Perspective

Abstract: The trend of growing road freight transport causes significant negative impacts on the society, economy and environment. A substantial share of the road freight sector’s externalities is imposed on urban areas because cities are the main destination for freight flows either for production, consumption or for transfer to other locations. City-regions that host centralized transport facilities of inter-regional networks suffer from congestion, noise and air pollution while at the same time the urban context challenges their efficient operation. Urban freight transport networks thus need to adjust to the urban environment and to balance different interest which in turn is likely to have an impact on inter-regional freight transport networks. This thesis aims to explore the relationship between urban freight transport and inter-regional freight transport networks for the sustainable development of the freight transport sector. This thesis is based on a multiple case-study. By means of in-depth interviews with freight transport stakeholders in six cities, the urban context of freight transport and how it affects inter-regional freight transport networks and vice versa is investigated. In a complementary theoretical study the case study findings are applied on intermodal rail-road freight transport with the goal to identify the urban context’s barriers and opportunities for the design of more competitive inter-regional rail transport services. The results confirm the tension in contemporary urban freight transport between local sustainable development and freight transport network performance. Economic interests on the one hand and environmental and social interests on the other hand are perceived as trade-offs and there is no long-term strategy to balance these interests. However, there is indication that adapting freight transport networks to the urban conditions can be beneficial for both the competitiveness of intermodal road-rail transport and local sustainability. Hence, a deeper integration of freight transport and urban sustainability strategies can possibly contribute to more sustainable freight transport.

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