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Mobility and Transport

Zero-emission urban freight logistics and last-mile delivery

Urban freight transport is essential to allow urban economies and everyday services to function, like replenishing stocks of food and other retail goods in shops, dispatching parcels, delivering building materials and removing household waste from urban areas. However, at the same time it contributes to congestion, air pollution and noise in cities, while facing such issues as a lack of parking areas or multimodal terminals for loading and unloading, a lack of space for logistics facilities, leading to relocation and concentration in suburban areas (logistics sprawl), high costs and low profit margins for logistics providers.

The EU Urban Mobility Framework presents policy aspects and more technologically and innovation-oriented solutions for more sustainable urban freight transport and logistics.

Planning and collaboration to reach zero-emission urban logistics

City authorities are encouraged to fully integrate the freight transport dimension within their sustainable urban mobility plans (SUMPs) through dedicated sustainable urban logistics plans (SULPs) developed in collaboration with private stakeholders. The application of clear urban freight planning and frameworks at the local, national and European level would allow logistics stakeholders to exploit the necessary economies of scale to remove the risk factor from investments and thus accelerate the transition towards sustainable urban logistics.

The engagement of public and private stakeholders is central to optimising urban logistics and last-mile delivery in economic, social and environmental terms. The Expert Group on Urban Mobility (EGUM), and in particular its subgroup dealing with urban logistics, aims to facilitate collaboration between local, regional and national authorities and stakeholders, including representatives of the logistics sector.

Considering the strong connection between cities and their hinterlands, an efficient interconnection between long distance and ‘first and last mile’ freight transport is fundamental and needs to be taken into consideration for city planning purposes. Therefore, the proposed revision of the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) Regulation provides for a reinforced approach to a larger number of urban nodes, requiring for example the development of multimodal freight terminals.

Innovative sustainable solutions

Together with policy initiatives, the deployment, uptake and upscaling of rapidly developing and sustainable solutions needs to be accelerated, using new zero-emission vehicles, new distribution models, dynamic routing, and improved multimodal connections with urban rail and inland waterways. This would help to optimise the use of vehicles and infrastructure and reduce the need for empty and unnecessary runs.

While there are known areas and tools for potential interventions, the impact that they can have on the urban mobility system is still unclear. Therefore, the Horizon Europe Research and Innovation (R&I) Framework Programme supports research, demonstrations and pilot actions on sustainable last-mile solutions and urban logistics space management, to be conducted through living labs in cities. Actions on urban logistics as part of the overall urban environment are also supported by the EU Mission on Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities.

Demonstrations of connected and automated solutions for logistics as well as the development of deployment strategies for zero-emission vehicles and logistics are covered by the Connected, Cooperative and Automated (CCAM) partnership and the Towards Zero Emission Road Transport (2Zero) partnership respectively. In addition, research and innovation actions aiming to increase the overall efficiency of supply chains will be funded, which should also have an impact on last mile logistics.