Model region for city logistics

The representatives of the partners at the start of the Urban Logistics Hanover initiative.

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Text: Juliane Gringer
Photos: VWN – Henning Scheffen, Pixabay

Hanover aims to investigate and test future-proof logistics concepts for urban areas in a project entitled “Urban logistics of the future”. Residents are closely involved in this undertaking.

Hanover wishes to demonstrate what clean, quiet, effective and thus future-proof city logistics concepts might look like. “We want to become a model region for the delivery traffic of the future,” explains Mayor Stefan Schostok. To this end, he has launched a comprehensive and long-term project together with Dr Eckhard Scholz, the CEO of Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles. “Urban logistics of the future” is an initiative sponsored by the city’s administration, business community and academics that is seeking to create an international centre of excellence for urban logistics in the Hanover region by 2030, while giving consideration to all the relevant factors.

Intelligent networking

The region around the capital of Lower Saxony is one of Germany’s largest logistics sites, making it an exciting object to research. “Our main aim is to create a city worth living in, which raises the question of how we can plan traffic in such a way that it produces as little noise and air pollution as possible,” explains Tim Gerstenberger, a traffic planner for the city of Hanover and one of the two project managers. Several topics are to be brought together in the process: intelligent networking and smart mobility solutions, digital communication and control technology, as well as electric delivery vehicles. “There are many technological ideas and approaches, but to date only a few have been brought together, transferred to, and tested out in entire city districts or even a major city,” says Gerstenberger. This is exactly what the urban logistics initiative is seeking to achieve: to develop and test model solutions for Hanover. They could include electrification of the city’s own vehicle fleet or the use of alternative drives, hubs or even cargo bikes.

Among the partners in the project’s steering group are not only the state cap­ital and Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, but also Deutsche Post DHL, Stadtwerke Hannover AG, Hanover University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Leibniz University of Hanover, and the state of Lower Saxony. Together, they have drafted a clear stra­tegic schedule and defined four sub-projects to establish a research infrastructure and promote both research work and doctoral scholarships. Comprehensive data analysis also forms part of this endeavour. A system to record, evaluate and use environmental and traffic data will bring together figures that can be used to control traffic flows. The figures will then be examined to determine their relevance to urban delivery traffic. There will be pilot districts in which concrete logistics concepts will be developed and tested, known as “living labs”. And finally, communal and commercial e-mobility will be expanded.

Benefits for everyone involved

“This strategic approach should safeguard full sustainability,” insists Gerstenberger. “In the end, everyone involved should bene­fit – both residents and the municipality, and the companies that engage in logistics.” As a representative of the muni­cipality, Gerstenberger outlines its role, “Like all the partners in this initiative, we are highly committed and contribu­ting our values and expertise with a view to achieving the common goals.” It is precisely this commitment and the engagement of everyone involved that makes this project initiative unique.

This view is echoed by Rüdiger Prang of Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles who is the initiative’s second project manager, “Having partners with different points of view joining forces and all working towards a common goal is truly exceptional. We have been able to attract highly committed people to the project. There is a huge interest in this subject – it makes a difference, and it motivates us!” All players who currently bring logistics to the city or who take care of supply and disposal are looking for alternative vehicles and logistics concepts, explains the expert, “These are primarily hauliers who, of course, want to run their businesses successfully in the future as well. And that’s why they are extremely interested in learning about the concepts that have the best chance of being adopted.”

In dialogue with residents

The urban logistics initiative was conceived during a public consultation to shape the city’s future in the period to 2030. “We began talking to residents to find out which topics were important to them and where there was a need for action,” explains Gerstenberger. “It became clear that mobility was definitely an area in which people want to have modern solutions.” The residents will continue to be closely involved in order to determine whether they will really accept the concepts in question. This means that the residents in the pilot districts in particular will be asked about their requirements and experiences with individual concepts. In the residential districts, the structure of the population as well as their needs, the traffic flows and their impact on the environment will all be investigated accordingly. “At first, we will collect data about commercial transport, see which flows exist and how they can be managed,” says Prang. “We will then simulate new concepts for commercial transport and apply them in real-life tests in the city districts, focusing on efficiency, reliability, environmental compatibility and acceptance.”

The initiative is targeting another milestone in the context of the USEfUL research project, which is being supported by the federal government with funding of around two million euros. In the next three years, a web-enabled urban logistics tool will be created to allow different areas and concepts in the city to be simulated. It will support policymakers, businesspeople and administrators in their task of deciding on innovative logistics concepts. In consequence, the urban logistics project is providing valuable groundwork for other region too.

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