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On route towards a new urban transport concept

17 November 2016

Over 50% of the world population lives in cities and this percentage is increasing, which makes great demands on our transportation system. Using the waterways have long been seen as a way to relieve the infrastructure on land, but how?

Urban WaterTruck is a project supported by the Swedish innovation agency Vinnova and aimed at developing a sustainable transport concept for urban waterways. A successful transport concept where several different modes interact could facilitate the transport of goods and freight transport and making it easier to manage the challenges of a growing city.

The project idea comes from Björn Södahl, Naval Architect with a long background in the maritime sector, including the Stena sphere and as a research coordinator at Chalmers Department of Shipping and Marine Technology.

- It feels great to launch this project. These ideas have been in my mind for quite a long time and they have now matured. It will be great to find out, with the support from Vinnova, if these ideas are ready for the market, it feels like the timing is right, Björn Södahl säys.

Holistic approach
Sweden is well situated to be at the forefront towards sustainable transports. Here we have world leading maritime excellence, notably lightweight construction of ships and alternative fuels in shipping. There is also a well-developed automotive sector with products and innovations that can be adapted for floating vehicles.

Work is under way on several fronts aimed at inland waterway transport and urban waterways. An example is the pilot study in Lighthouse about how the waterway can complement existing infrastructure. The project Urban WaterTruck aims to take a holistic approach towards urban waterways.

Besides Björn Södahl, the Lighthouse members School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg, KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Viktoria Swedish ICT are involved in the project from the beginning. And as the project progresses more key players from i.e. the industry are expected to get involved.

Different steps
In the first step, a business intelligence will be made and two typical cases involving urban waterways in Gothenburg and / or Stockholm shall be identified, one for solid bulk transportation and one for retail distribution. The cases will be evaluated and then one of the cases will move on to the next step with tests and evaluations of existing vehicles and concepts in order to finally move on to the third step, which involves prototyping, real demonstration facilities and a new transport concept with new products and business models. The project has received funding for the first stage that shall be completed in 2017.

- There is an increasing urbanization and densification, and you have a fairly locked infrastructure in big cities where congestion grows. At the same time, many large cities have waterways within and around the city that once were important transport routes and they have the ability to be that again. The vision is that Swedish stakeholders will meet this challenge and develop multimodal, comprehensive urban transport systems. By 2030 Sweden could be the leading supplier of sustainable transport systems for cities, Björn Södahl says.

Text: Andreas Kron

Fact: Challenge-driven innovation
The Swedish innovation agency Vinnova, is moving towards a challenge-driven strategy. This challenge-driven strategy derives from the important social and societal challenges driving the development of innovations and bringing global market opportunities.
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