Take the waterway instead!

The increased traffic congestion in Swedish cities threatens both the environment and the economy. At the same time, Sweden have goal to transfer more cargo from road to sea. Despite this, hardly any urban waterways are used. A project within the industry program Sustainable Shipping, which is run by Lighthouse, is investigating what Swedish authorities can do to empower the development.

“Urbanization in Europe and the world is extensive. Cities are becoming denser, e-commerce is increasing and areas, especially traffic areas, must be used more efficiently.. Congestion costs an incredible amount, both environmentally and financially”, says Sönke Behrends, a researcher at SSPA who leads the project Myndigheters roll för urban och vattenburen logistik.

He tells a story of how the hauliers in Gothenburg, just before the pandemic, went together and wrote a letter to the Traffic Office in the city. The message was clear: “This is no longer works, we don’t reach our customers with our deliveries. You have to do something ”.

“We must change how we transport goods in the cities. Various solutions have been discussed, such as opening up bus lanes for freight traffic. But these are also heavily trafficked and the city do not want to affect passenger transport. However, there is a another solution. The waterways that exist in several of our largest cities are not used to any great extent. There is a lot of capacity left.”

In other cities in Europe, for example in Amsterstam, Paris and Utrecht, waterways are used to transport goods. It has not happened by itself, but the authorities of these cities have played a major role in supporting and driving development. For example, they have built quays and contributed financial support for investments in electric barges.

Swedish authorities also have a great interest in urban water logistics – mainly in large cities such as Stockholm and Gothenburg, but also in other municipalities such as Helsingborg, Karlstad and Umeå. One problem, however, is that the knowledge of the authorities is small. The idea is that the project, which will result in a completed pre-study before the end of the year, will help the authorities along the way by answering questions about how they should act and what is possible for them to do. What are the legal obstacles? How can authorities and administrations cooperate in this matter?

“This is a cost issue above all. Barges need to be purchased and quays built. As it looks today, large and concentrated flows in the system are also needed for waterways to be able to compete with road traffic. For construction transport and waste logistics, it can work well, while I think it will be more difficult with fragmented flows such as from e-commerce”, says Sönke Behrends.

Within the project, analyzes are made of previous cases of implementation of urban waterways and interviews are done with different actors. The School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg is also participating in the pre-study, which will be completed by the end of the year.

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