The freight network – a key element in the city’s answer to freight questions

From a meeting of the urban freight network, with the Director of Transport in attendance

For the last eight years Gothenburg has had an urban freight network, one of the few in Europe. It is made up of representatives from the public and private sectors, and from the fields of education and research. Together they are working to develop logistics solutions for the city. There are usually 20 to 25 participants in the group, ranging from property owners to representatives from transport companies, business and the public services. Anette Thorén, project leader in the area of sustainable transport, stresses the importance of an effective freight network.

”Business and local politics work at very different speeds and in very different worlds. In an effective network, all parties work to overcome these differences. By giving everyone a better understanding of the way the municipality works we can encourage an active involvement in the process of change. Our shared aim is to create an attractive and sustainable Gothenburg over the long term.”

The network meets three times a year and discusses such questions as how we can have an attractive city while also having an efficient and competitive goods distribution system. Other issues up for discussion by the network are rules and regulations, infrastructure matters, specific development projects and other questions participants want to raise. At our latest meeting on 7 May we had a workshop dealing with two important topics. One dealt with the way deliveries would be made in the future, while the other tackled the issue of access during the coming extensive construction period in Gothenburg.

New initiative to improve logistics and reduce emissions

Major Swedish cities are collaborating to cut emissions. The negative impact of urban freight traffic on climate should fall by not less than 70 per cent by 2030 according to EU goals. This goal has also been adopted by a national network for better urban logistics, where Gothenburg is a driving force.

“Looking at the period from 2011 to 2030, it’s entirely possible to reduce emissions in city centres by this amount,” says Anette Thorén. “Small changes and improvements make a big difference. We need changes in goods distribution, including new transport solutions and deliveries at different times of the day, and new technologies.”

“Thanks to electric vehicles and to collaborative efforts to make the most efficient use of vehicles, it is far from being an impossible target. And then we will have an attractive city where it’s easy to get around but we can still breathe clean air.”

Municipalities learning from each other

Sweden’s smaller municipalities have created a network to discuss goods distribution in built-up areas on the initiative of SALAR (Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions).The first meeting was held in the spring of 2013.

Urban freight transport is receiving lot of attention and municipalities need to learn from each. Areas of interest include creating the right conditions and the momentum for change, and laying the foundations for commercially viable solutions which make for more efficient and cleaner urban freight distribution. Areas for discussion include negotiating the purchase of transport solutions and collaboration with local stakeholders in local freight transport networks. By looking separately at the question of transport at the purchasing and procurement stage, it is easier to specify more environmentally-friendly transport solutions. Urban logistics is a challenging area and we have to learn from each other. Collaboration is very important and municipalities need to allow business and academia to participate in local municipal processes. The political will for change is also essential.

Swedish focus on transport efficiency

Closer is the name of the Swedish body focusing on research, development and innovation in the area of transport efficiency. It is a collaborative organization involving industry, research and the public sector and it has three areas of focus: Urban Mobility, Intermodal Transport and Green Corridors, and High Capacity Transport.

In the Urban Mobility area the objective is to develop smart, sustainable solutions to the question of how to transport people and freight around cities. In autumn 2014 the urban freight network was established and has met a couple of times since then. One of its objectives is to spread knowledge about the transport area and to encourage the development of more efficient transport solutions.

Anette THORÉN, City of Gothenburg