Amsterdam – CityCargo BV signed a ten-year contract on Monday with the Amsterdam municipality to develop cargo transport in Amsterdam by freight tram.
The first ten trams will start running mid-2008. The contract follows a successful pilot scheme in March, when CityCargo tested its capability to let cargo trams use existing tram tracks without disturbing the passenger tram schedule.
“This was the municipality’s main concern,” explains Jupijn Haffmans, CityCargo spokesman. “We demonstrated that by driving immediately behind the passenger trams, we can operate without hindering the existing passenger tram schedule.”
The contract CityCargo signed requires close cooperation with Amsterdam tram company GVB. “We basically use their schedule to determine when we drive to which direction,” says Haffmans.
The medieval inner city of Amsterdam is known for its many narrow streets and canals. Stores and companies often experience great difficulty transporting their cargo. Due to municipality regulations, lorries are only allowed allowed to deliver their goods between 7 and 11 am, causing them to be stuck in the morning traffic.
Haffmans: “We will start with ten cargo trams, but we intend to operate fifty trams within the next four years. Ultimately, our freight trams should replace 2,500 trucks per day in the inner city. That is approximately half of the daily truck load.”
CityCargo says its tram project will reduce city congestion, saving everyone time and money. In addition, replacing petrol-filled trucks by electrically-powered tram cars is expected to reduce air pollution dramatically.
The system works as follows. Instead of driving directly to their destination, trucks will now go to four designated distribution centres, called cross docks. They are strategically located in western suburbs, close to Schiphol Airport. This way, inbound goods arriving at Schiphol can also be taken into the inner city aboard the freight trams.
At the cross docks, goods will be transferred from trucks to tram cars. They will be sorted by delivery area before being loaded aboard the trams for the journey to inner-city transshipment hubs.
From there, the goods will be delivered in a finely-meshed network by electrically powered “e-cars.” These vehicles will be used for “the last mile” to the delivery address.
The freight trams will be allowed to load and unload outside the goods delivery window.
According to current calculations, tram cargo transportation takes fifteen extra minutes compared with direct truck transportation. However, CityCargo claims the expenses of the cargo tram delivery are fifteen per cent less than those of truck delivery.
Haffmans: “Our services are particularly attractive for businesses who need to transport small cargo loads, such as restaurants, boutique stores, and small firms.”
Peter van der Sterre, policy consultant of EVO, a Dutch organisation of companies dealing with cargo transport as part of their core business, said:
“This is an important initiative. Cargo transport in Amsterdam is difficult. Any idea enhancing cargo transport is applaudable. However, the freight tram is only a good alternative for small companies. Financially it does not pay off for big stores like supermarket chains or department stores, who need to transport full truck loads.”
Therefore, Van der Sterre explains, EVO’s support to CityCargo was conditional: “We needed the municipality to guarantee companies would not be forced to use the trams, but could retain freedom of choice concerning their preferred way of cargo transportation.”
Meanwhile, Haffman says CityCargo is receiving calls from around the world.
“Two delegations from Tokyo visited us. San Francisco is interested in setting up a similar tram cargo network. In the Netherlands, the cities of Utrecht and Rotterdam expressed an interest. On the European level Brussels, Ghent, Riga, Prague and Lisbon have approached us.”
Van der Sterre is a bit more cautious: “To become successful, CityCargo will need to cover not only the inner city, but the whole metropolitan area of Amsterdam, Utrecht or Rotterdam. Companies want one cargo company to look after all their needs.”
Other European cities are exploring cargo tram transportation too. Dresden in Germany has a regular CarGoTram service carrying car parts across the city centre to its Volkswagen factory. Vienna, Austria and Zurich, Switzerland use trams as mobile recycling depots.
– Source: DPA, July 9, 2007
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