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The Role of Urban Consolidation Centres in Sustainable Freight Transport

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The paper reviews the study and use of urban consolidation centres (UCCs) which are a freight transport initiative intended to reduce goods vehicle traffic, vehicle-related greenhouse gas emissions and local air pollution. An international literature review has identified 114 UCC schemes in 17 countries (12 in the European Union (EU) and 5 outside the EU) that have been the subject of either a feasibility study, trial or a fully operational scheme in the last 40 years. The period from 2006 to 2010 has been the most active 5-year period in terms of UCC study, trial and scheme generation since the first UCC study was carried out in the early 1970s. Five countries account for the majority of all the 114 UCC schemes identified: France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the UK. The vast majority of UCCs serve either all or part of an urban area. Examples of UCCs serving a single property (such as an airport or shopping centre) and construction sites have also been identified. Key organizational, operational, and financial issues that are critical to the success of UCCs are discussed. The traffic and environmental impacts of UCC trials and fully operational schemes are also reviewed.
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The Role of Urban Consolidation
Centres in Sustainable Freight
Transport
Julian Allen
a
, Michael Browne
a
, Allan Woodburn
a
& Jacques
Leonardi
a
a
Department of Transport and Planning, School of Architecture
and the Built Environment, University of Westminster, 35
Marylebone Road, London, NW1 5LS, UK
Available online: 21 May 2012
To cite this article: Julian Allen, Michael Browne, Allan Woodburn & Jacques Leonardi (2012):
The Role of Urban Consolidation Centres in Sustainable Freight Transport, Transport Reviews: A
Transnational Transdisciplinary Journal, DOI:10.1080/01441647.2012.688074
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The Role of Urban Consolidation Centres in Sustainable
Freight Transport
JULIAN ALLEN, MICHAEL BROWNE, ALLAN WOODBURN AND
JACQUES LEONARDI
Department of Transport and Planning, School of Architecture and the Built Environment,
University of Westminster, 35 Marylebone Road, London NW1 5LS, UK
(Received 2 August 2011; accepted 20 April 2012)
ABSTRACT The paper reviews the study and use of urban consolidation centres (UCCs) which are a
freight transport initiative intended to reduce goods vehicle traffic, vehicle-related greenhouse gas
emissions and local air pollution. An international literature review has identified 114 UCC
schemes in 17 countries (12 in the European Union (EU) and 5 outside the EU) that have been
the subject of either a feasibility study, trial or a fully operational scheme in the last 40 years. The
period from 2006 to 2010 has been the most active 5-year period in terms of UCC study, trial and
scheme generation since the first UCC study was carried out in the early 1970s. Five countries
account for the majority of all the 114 UCC schemes identified: France, Germany, Italy, the Nether-
lands and the UK. The vast majority of UCCs serve either all or part of an urban area. Examples of
UCCs serving a single property (such as an airport or shopping centre) and construction sites have
also been identified. Key organizational, operational, and financial issues that are critical to the
success of UCCs are discussed. The traffic and environmental impacts of UCC trials and fully oper-
ational schemes are also reviewed.
Introduction
There is much interest in Urban Consolidation Centres (UCCs) as a means by
which to alleviate local environmental and traffic problems within urban areas.
However, outstanding questions about the success of UCCs in terms of their finan-
cial, transport and environmental impacts have remained largely unaddressed.
UCCs are logistics facilities that are situated in relatively close proximity to the
geographic area that they serve be that a specific site (e.g. shopping centre or
airport), city centre, or an entire urban area. The key purpose of UCCs is the avoid-
ance of poorly loaded goods vehicles making deliveries in urban areas and
thereby a reduction in goods vehicle traffic. This objective can be achieved by
transhipping and consolidating goods at the UCC onto vehicles with high load
factors for final delivery in the urban area. The UCC also offers the opportunity
to operate electric and alternatively powered goods vehicles for this urban
Correspondence Address: Julian Allen, Department of Transport and Planning, School of Architecture and
the Built Environment, University of Westminster, 35 Marylebone Road, London NWI 5LS, UK. Email:
allenj@westminster.ac.uk
Transport Reviews, 2012, 118, iFirst Article
0144-1647 print/1464-5327 Online/12/000001-18
# 2012 Taylor & Francis
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01441647.2012.688074
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delivery work. A range of other value-added logistics and retail service s can also
be provided at the UCC.
The paper is based on an international literature review of both printed and
online resources. The paper addresses the following issues:
.
The evolution of UCCs and their purpose
.
The methodology adopted for the review of UCCs
.
The identification of UCC feasibility studies, trials and operations by country,
date, and type
.
A discussion of results and lessons learned from UCC trials and initiatives
including: traffic and environmental impacts, organizational, financial and
operational insights
Each of these topics is addressed in turn in the following sections.
The Evolution of UCCs and Their Purpose
Initial research in the UK and France from the 1970s onwards focused on the
so-called ‘transhipment centres’. These projects came about as a reaction to
growing concerns about the environmental impacts of large, heavy goods vehicles
(HGVs) and were intended as a means by which the number of HGVs operating in
urban areas could be reduced. UCCs were viewed as ideally being implemented at
an urban level on a communal, shared-user basis, with much attention devoted to
the use of smaller, lighter vehicles for the final deliveries from the UCC (see for
example Battilana & Hawthorne, 1976; GLC London Freight Conference, 1975;
Lorries and the Environment Committee, 1976; Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners,
1975). The research did not concern itself with the resulting proliferation of goods
vehicle trips that would result from a substitution of large HGVs with smaller
HGVs and vans. The concern about HGVs and their impacts came about as a
result of campaigning by anti-road and environmental pressure groups (McKin-
non, 1998a). In the USA and Canada, interest in urban transhipment centres
was driven to a greater extent by the poor load factors of goods vehicles operating
in urban areas (McKinnon, 1998b). These North American transhipment centres
were conceived as public sector led initiatives in which communal, shared-user
urban facilities would be established at which HGVs would unload their goods
destined for delivery in the urban area. Goods vehicles with higher load fac tors
would then be used for the final delivery of these products thereby reducing
the proportion of HGV traffic in the urban environment.
None of the transhipment centres for which feasibility studies were carried out in the
1970s in the UK, USA, Canada and Japan was ultimately established due to concerns
about their viability in terms of obtaining sufficient product throughput and the likely
resulting impacts on operating costs. An urban transhipment operation together with a
restriction on goods vehicles over 3.5 tonnes gross weight entering Paris was intro-
duced in 1971, but in this scheme the two transhipment centres located on the north
and south edges of the city failed to attract expected levels of throughput and their
use was subsequently changed to more general logistics and warehousing activities
(McKinnon, 1998b). Urban transhipment schemes were also established in several
Dutch cities in the 1970s run by small freight operators working co-operatively and
sometimes receiving public funding. However, it would appear that these Dutch
schemes generated low levels of goods throughput (McKinnon, 1998b).
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During the 1990s, the German ‘city logistics’ trials and operational schemes
were established by small freight operators and forwarders working in co-
operation with each other in many towns and cities. In some cases, these involved
the establishment of new transhipment centres, while in others existing facilities
were used and operators simply agreed how to share traffic (Crainic, Ricciardi,
& Storchi, 2004). These schemes were encouraged by the rise of the green party
in German politics and received public funding. However, only five of these orig-
inal schemes were still operating in 2005, namely in Aachen, Bremen, Essen,
Frankfurt am Main, and Regensburg (Nobel, 2005).
During the late 1990s and 2000s, there has been a resurgence of interest in the
urban transhipment centre concept in severa l European countries including the
UK, France, Italy and the Netherlands (Browne, Woodburn, Sweet, & Allen,
2005). These are usually referred to as UCCs instead of the earlier terms of
‘urban transhipment centres’ or ‘city logistics’ schemes. Other terms currently
used in the literature to describe UCCs include ‘freight consolidation centres’
(FCCs) and ‘urban distribution centres’ (UDCs). UCCs are the same in motivation
to the research in the USA amd Canada in the 1970s, in that their key purpose is
the avoidance of the need for poorly loaded goods vehicles of any size or weight to
make deliveries in urban areas (be that a city centre, an entire town or a specific
site such as a shopping centre) thereby leading to reductions in the total distance
travelled by goods vehicles in urban areas and their associated environmental
impacts. This objective can be achieved by providing facilities within or close to
the urban area where goods (for retail, restaurant, office, residential or construc-
tion use) can be consolidated for subsequent delivery into the target area by a
vehicle that is appropriately sized for the products and locations served and
which achieves a high load factor. The vehicles operated from these centres are,
therefore, not necessarily small and light vehicles, and range in size and typ e
from tricycles and vans to large rigid vehicles (see, for example, Department for
Transport, 2002; Dunning, 1997; Exel, 2004; Hesse, 2004; Institut fu
¨
r Seeverkehrs-
wirtschaft und Logistik, 2005; Ko
¨
hler & Groke, 2004). In addition, since the late
1990s as well as efforts to reduce total distance travelled through the application
of UCCs, there has also been growing interest in the use of alternatively powered
vehicles from the UCC to make the final delivery and thereby further reduce
greenhouse gas emissions and local air pollution. UCCs are the penultimate
link in the supply chain prior to the final delivery of goods; they receive goods
from upstream logistics centres. A range of other value-added logistics and
retail services are also now being provided at some UCCs in order to enhance
supply chain efficiency and improve their attractiveness and financial turnover.
In addition, recent UCCs tend to provide a far greater role for the private sector
in terms of operations, management and financing (Browne et al., 2005).
Figure 1 shows the effects of a typical UCC scheme in which previously poorly
loaded goods vehicles making direct deliveries to receivers in urban areas are
diverted to a UCC from which more consolidated vehicle loads are delivered. It
reflects the typical financial, traffic and environmental effects from the perspective
of carriers, receivers, the UCC operator and other road users.
Methodology Adopted for the Review
The literature review included academic journals, trade press, research reports,
project publications and conference proceedings. It was necessary to include a
Role of Urban Consolidation Centres 3
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wide ran ge of documents in the review in addition to academic papers and
reports, as UCCs have been widely referred to in non-academic publications.
This review was carried out using paper-based and online resources. Initially,
paper-based resources in the possession of the authors were consulted; these
included both publications about a single UCC as well as others that summarized
or referred to several UCCs. These publications also provided references to other
relevant publications that were then consulted. The paper-based review carried
out was responsible for the majority of UCC schemes identified. For online
searches, the following English search terms were used: UCCs, urban tranship-
ment centres, city logistics schemes, FCCs, and UDCs. The authors acknowledge
that the literature review will not have identified all UCC schemes. However, they
consider the results to constitute a reasonable sample given that the main purpose
of the paper was not to identify every UCC scheme, but to consider the lessons
learned from such schemes.
For each of the UCC schemes identified, the start date, progress, results and
current status were recorded where this could be gleaned from the literature. It
proved difficult in some cases to identify start dates with any precision and
even more difficult to determine when, or in some cases if, a trial was concluded.
As a result the start dates presented should be considered as indicative rather than
definitive. To add complexity to the review, many UCCs ceased being reported on
following the feasibility study or trial phase which suggests that the initial enthu-
siasm that was associated with the launch of many of the schemes, especially in
the case of many UCCs in Germa ny, soon evaporated. Ko
¨
hler and Groke (2004)
state that approximately 200 UCC schemes were either considered, planned or
carried out in Germany the 1990s. Fla
¨
mig (2004) est imated that less than 15
schemes were still in existence by the end of 2002, and Nobel (2005) reported
that only 5 schemes were still operating in 2005. In the literature review, it was
Figure 1. Model of poorly loaded vehicles making direct deliveries replaced by better loaded vehicles
from UCC.
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only possible to identify 14 UCCs in Germany that had been the subject of a feasi-
bility study, trial or fully operational scheme.
Summary of UCC Feasibility Studies, Trials and Operations Identified in the
Literature
This section discusses the type and number of UCC schemes identified in the inter-
national literature review carried out, and a classification system for UCCs is also
presented. The review identified 114 UCC schemes in 17 countries worldwide (12
in the European Union (EU) and 5 outside the EU) that had either been the focus
of a feasibility study, trial or fully operational scheme. Mention of a further 33
UCC schemes were also found in the literature review. However no evidence
could be found that these UCCs had been the subject of a study or trial and may,
therefore, have been no more than an idea. As there was no readily identifiable
work carried out on these 33 UCC schemes, they are not included in the discussion.
Table 1 shows the indicative start dates for the 114 UCC projects, trials and oper-
ational schemes by the count ry as identified in the literature review. The earliest
UCC study referred to in the literature dates from 1972 in Colombus, Ohio
(McKinnon, 1998a). However, the UCC concept does not appe ar to have proved
popular in the USA since this early study. Table 1 shows that the country in
which the majority of UCC research activity took place prior to 1990 was the
UK. These involved UCC studies in several county towns, industrial towns and
London. However, none of these proceeded be yond the investigation stage.
During the 1990s, the literature review indicates increasing interest in the UCC
concept in Germany, and to a lesser extent in France, the Netherlands and the UK.
Between 2001 and 2005, the establishment of UCC study, trial and scheme
formation appears to have continued at the same rate as in the previous two
5-year periods (i.e. 19911995 and 19962000). This coincided with increasing
interest from policy-makers about the potential role that UCCs could play in
bringing about more sustainable urban distribution. The most recent 5-year
period from 2006 to 2010 has generated more UCC studies, trials and schemes
than any previous 5-year period. The literature review indicates that the vast
majority of this activity has taken place in the UK, Italy and the Netherlands.
Over the entire period from the early 1970s to the present, the countries in which
most interest in UCCs has occurred are France, Germany, Italy Netherlands and
the UK. Between them, these five countries have accounted for approximately
80% of the 114 UCC schemes, with the UK alone accounting for approximately
one-third of all the UCC schemes identified in the literature review. Although
there has been much UCC research and implementation in the UK, this finding
could also be influenced by the element of the research that was internet-based,
using only English search terms. This may have resulted in some studies not
being identified (i.e. those studies which have not been referred to in any of the
literature consulted in English including papers or summary reports).
The 1 14 UCC schemes identified in the literature review that had involved work
being undertaken on them were allocated to one of three categories: (i) research
project/feasibility studies, (ii) trials, and (iii) operational schemes. ‘Research
project/Feasibility studies’ refer to UCCs that did not progress beyond an initial
research/feasibility project, while ‘trials’ refer to UCCs that did not proceed beyond
a trial. The ‘operational schemes refer to any schemes that extended beyond
the trial stage. Table 2 shows the 114 UCC schemes according to this categorization.
Role of Urban Consolidation Centres 5
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Table 1. Analysis of UCC schemes by country and date of investigation/start-up, 19702010
Country Unknown 19701975 19761990 19911995 19962000 20012005 20062010 Total
Austria 1 1
Belgium 1 1
Canada 1 ––––1
Finland 1 1
France 1 5 3 2 11
Germany 8 6 14
Italy 1 5 8 14
Japan 1 1 2 4
Monaco 1 ––––1
The Netherlands 2 311714
Portugal 1 1
Slovenia 1 1
Spain 1 2 3
Sweden 2 2 1 5
Switzerland 2 1 3
UK 4 4 1 4 4 21 38
USA –1 ––––1
Total 1 6 9 19 18 19 42 114
Note: represents zero.
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Typically, UCCs that have become operational have been subject to an initial trial, and
UCCs that are trialled have been subject to a research project or feasibility study.
Therefore, a UCC that has been subject to more than one of these categories has
been allocated to its most advanced category (with operational schemes being the
most advanced and research projects/feasibility studies the least advanced).
The results indicate that in the five countries in which interest and activity in
UCCs has been greatest, there are differences in the proportion of UCCs have pro-
ceeded beyond a feasibility study or research project. In France and the UK,
approximately two-thirds of the UCCs identified in the literature review did not
proceed beyond a research project or feasibility study. By comparison in
Germany, Italy and the Nethe rlands the vast majority of UCC studies proceeded
to either a trial or a fully operational scheme.
In the UK, over the last 40 years, public funding has been made available on
many occasions to study the UCC concept but relatively little public funding
has been available for trials and fully operational schemes. Of the 13 UCCs in
the UK that have been fully operational, all of these have occurred since 2000
and many have been both led and funded by commercial enterprises that,
perhaps following the path established by the major grocery retailers, recognized
the benefit of controlling the logistics movements that affected their operations.
Therefore, it has been the private sector (including logistics service providers,
property developers and landlords) that have driven the recent development of
UCC trials and operational schemes in the UK.
The vast majority of the schemes identified as operationa l in Table 2 remain in
operation today (approximately 40 of the 50 identified are believed to still be func-
tioning). The majority of these were established from the year 2000 onwards.
Table 2. Analysis of UCC schemes by country and status, 19702010
Country Research/feasibility study Trial Operational Total
Austria 1 1
Belgium 1 1
Canada 1 1
Finland 1 1
France 7 2 2 11
Germany 1 2 11 14
Italy 2 5 7 14
Japan 2 2 4
Monaco 1 1
The Netherlands 4 10 14
Portugal 1 1
Slovenia 1 1
Spain 2 1 3
Sweden 2 1 2 5
Switzerland 2 1 3
UK 22 3 13 38
USA 1 1
Total 46 18 50 114
Notes: represents zero.
As previously mentioned, far more UCC schemes appear to have either been planned or trialled in
Germany than shown in the table. The table contains schemes about which it has been possible to
obtain the literature.
Role of Urban Consolidation Centres 7
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Having carried out the literature review and identified UCC schemes, it was
also possible to devise a classification system based on the type of operation
and geographical area served for all the UCC cases identified. This comprises
three categories of UCC:
(1) UCCs serving all or part of an urban area: These UCCs are usually associated
with the supply of retail products, but are also used for the supply of office
products, and occasionally food supplies for restaurants and cafes. These
UCC schemes are often intended to serve a specific district in an urban area
and are often used to serve locations with features such as narrow streets
and historic layouts and therefore have a concentration of freight transport-
related issues including:
.
vehicle congestion and delay
.
restricted access times and insufficient parking provision
.
a preference for pedestrians only schemes
.
unacceptable levels of air pollution
The introducti on of this type of UCC is usually initially suggested by the local
authority which hopes to benefit from the traffic and environmental improve-
ments that are typically associated with it. Existing examples of such UCCs
include Reglog in Regensburg, Cityporto in Padua, La Rochelle UCC, Nijmegen
UCC and Bristol UCC.
(2) UCCs serving large sites with a single landlord: These UCCs are most commonly
associated with the supply of retail products and food supplies for restaurants
and cafes. There are also examples of them being used for supplying hospital
products. The types of large sites served by these UCCs include airports, shop-
ping centres and hospitals. In some instances, these UCCs serve only one large
site (for example, London Heathrow airport retail UCC and Meadowhall shop-
ping centre UCC in Sheffield), while in other cases, they serve several large sites
(such as the Hospital Logistics Centre in London which delivers to several
major hospitals). Although these UCCs only serve one or a few large sites,
these often contain many different outlets (such as various retailers in a shop-
ping centre or airport). The interest in UCCs among developers and owners of
airports and shopping centres usually stems from the desire to maximize retail
space by minimizing on-site storage and the need for multiple delivery bays
(WSP, 2008). In the case of a hospital, the interest is more commonly in reducing
on-site stock levels and storage space. These UCCs differ from those serving all
or part of an urban area (i.e. type 1 described above) in the following ways: (i)
the sites served are built as a single development so the UCC can potentially be
designed into the planning of the site, (ii) the site landlord has the potential to
insist that tenants use the UCC, (iii) the unloading points tend to be located off-
street in a specially designed delivery area with access via a single route, and
(iv) the UCC operation can potentially be made self-financing through
charges built into tenants’ rental arrangements.
(3) Construction project UCCs: These are UCCs that are used for consolidating con-
struction materials for major building projects including housing, office blocks
and hospitals. Examples include UCCs established at London Heathrow
airport during major development work and in Hammarby in Stockholm
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for a major housing project. This type of UCC can serve either a single major
building project or several. This type of UCC can either exist only for the life-
time of a building project or can be on-going serving new major building pro-
jects as they are established, but experience to date suggests that the former is
more common. Either the site developer or the main construction contractor
would decide to make use of a UCC, or it could be made mandatory
through the planning permission process.
Each of these three types of UCC can offer either relatively basic consolidation and
delivery services or can offer a wider range of value-added logistics activities such as
stockholding facilities, ticketing and pricing, goods return and waste collection ser-
vices. Similarly, each of the three types of UCC could also potentially offer commu-
nity collection and delivery point facilities (for other consumer and business
products), and home delivery operations could also be operated from the UCC.
Table 3 shows the 114 UCC schemes divided into these three categories. UCCs
that serve part or all of an urban area can be seen to be by far the most numerous
(97 out of 114 UCCs).
Results and Lessons Learned from UCC Trials and Initiatives
In carrying out the literature review, it has been possible to identify key issues and
lessons concerning existing and attempted UCCs. These include potential traffic
and environmental impacts, organizational features, financial issues and oper-
ational practices. Each of these topics is addressed in turn in the following sections.
Traffic and Environmental Impacts of UCCs
By improving the load factor of goods vehicles making deliveries in congested
locations, UCCs can reduce the total distance travelled in urban areas, as well
as reducing greenhouse gas emissions and local air quality pollutants associated
with these journeys (both through reductions in the total distance travelled, and
through the use of low emission vehicles). Fewer goods vehicle kilometres are
also associated with reductions in conflicts between goods vehicles and other
road users, and greater pedestrian safety. In addition, the improved load consoli-
dation resulting from the use of UCCs can reduce the total kerbside time and space
occupied by vehicles making on-street deliveries, thereby further reducing the
impact of freight operations on traffic congestion (Boudouin, 2006; Browne
et al., 2005; Gonzalez-Feliu & Morana, 2010; WSP, 2008).
Quantification of the transport and environmental impacts exists for relatively
few of the UCCs identified in the literature review. Such analysis was identified
for only 24 of the 68 UCC schemes identified in the review that involved a trial
or were fully operational.
In these 24 UCC eva luation studies, improvements in vehicle load factors
ranged from 15% to 100%, reductions in vehicle trips and vehicle kilometres tra-
velled were typically between 60% and 80%, and reductions in greenhouse gas
emissions from these transport operations ranged from 25% to 80%. All of these
improvements refer only to the change in transport activity that takes place
between the UCC and the final point of delivery, rather than in the entire
supply chain for the product.
Role of Urban Consolidation Centres 9
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In some UCC schemes, the reduction in kerbside space or time occupied by
vehicles making deliveries in the urba n area has also been estimated. In the
case of Monaco there was a 42% reduction in the total space used by delivery
vehicles after the introduction of the UCC, while in Tenjin there was a 7%
reduction in the time taken to make deliveries to receivers as a result of the
UCC (Nemoto, 1997; Patier, 2006). In a UCC operation in the City of London,
the kerbside metre-hours occupied per hour were 10% lower when using the
UCC than before (Browne, Allen, & Leonardi, 2011).
The results from UCC studies indicate that UCCs have the ability to improve the
efficiency of freight transport operations and thereby reduce the congestion and
environmental impacts of this activity. For construction project UCCs and UCCs
serving major sites suc h as airports and hospitals, the reduction in total freight
activity and associated impacts at the delivery locations can, therefore, be con-
siderable. In the case of UCCs serving all or part of an urban area, as a result of
their scale of operations, the reduction in total road freight traffic and environ-
mental impacts in the urban area will be relatively limited and may be too
small to be measurable. The effect on total road freight activity within a given
urban area is dependent on the proportion of all goods that are sent via the
UCC rather than delivered directly.
Organizational Features
It appears that UCCs that are imposed are successful only if the imposing organ-
ization is able to control or strongly influence all the potential carriers and recei-
vers of goods. This is far more readily achieved in the case of construction project
UCCs and UCCs that serve large sites with a single landlord than in UCCs that
Table 3. Analysis of UCC schemes by country and type, 19702010
All or part of urban area Large site with single landlord Construction Total
Austria 1 1
Belgium 1 1
Canada 1 1
Finland 1 1
France 11 11
Germany 13 1 14
Italy 14 14
Japan 3 1 4
Monaco 1 1
The Netherlands 14 14
Portugal 1 1
Slovenia 1 1
Spain 3 3
Sweden 3 1 1 5
Switzerland 3 3
UK 26 7 5 38
USA 1 1
Total 97 10 7 114
Notes: represents zero.
Of the ten UCCs serving large sites with single landlord, six serve shopping centres, three serve airports
and one serves hospitals.
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serve all or part of an urban area. For instance, at London Heathrow airport, the
owner Heathrow Airport Limited (HAL) has been able to insist that the retailers
in its terminals use its dedicated consolidation centre, and has also determined
the ground rules under which DHL manages the centre and the freight operation
(DHL, 2009). As landlord, HAL is clearly in control. This condition can be readily
achieved in the case of major construction sites led by a single developer and is
also feasible at other large sites with a single landlord (such as airports, shopping
centres and hospitals).
In many recent UCCs that serve either part or all of an urban area, the public
transport authority has also implemented restrictions on other goods vehicle oper-
ations in order to encourage use of the UCC (Kloppers, 2008). Examples include
the introduction of loading time restrictions in pedestrianized areas served by
the UCC in Bristol; the requirement that goods vehicles have at least Euro 3
engines, are at least 70% laden, and have a satellite navigation system in Parma;
vehicle access restrictions on goods vehicles over 3.5 tonnes gross weight
between 06:00 and 07:30 in the historic centre of La Rochelle together with per-
mission for UCC vehicles to use bus lanes; the total prohibition of goods vehicles
over 8.5 tonnes gross weight in Monaco; and access restrictions for all goods
vehicles in the historic centre of Vicenza (City Ports, 2005; Mollard, 2002; Patier,
2006; START, 2008; Ville, Gonzalez-Feliu, & Dablanc, 2010).
In the case of Vicenza, the city transport authority has implemented a UCC for
the historic, pedestrianized city centre that is operated by one appointed company
and has put in place a prohibition of other carriers’ vehicles entering the area
during the daytime, thereby encouraging them to use the UCC and its goods
vehicles when making deliveri es (Comune di Vicenza, 2011). A legal challenge
was bought by a trade association representing these other carriers but the State
Council, the highest Italian administrative court, has authorized the city author-
ity’s scheme. There is, however, a possibility that the trade association will take
its legal challenge to the European comm unity’s court of justice (Ville et al.,
2010). This case highlights the potentially complex legal and political issues that
surround the implementation of delivery restrictions in order to promote or
mandate the use of UCCs.
Financial Issues
There are concerns about the financial viability of UCCs due to the failure of
schemes in the past (Quak & Tavasszy, 2011). The general cons ensus is that
UCCs must be financially viable in their own right in the medium- to long-term
as public subsidies are not necessarily a desirable solution. As part of wider finan-
cial considerations, however, a case might be made for hypothecated funds from
other transport-related sources such as congestion charging and road pricing
being used to underwrite or pump-prime UCC operations, especially when the
UCC is shown to result in traffic and environmental benefits (Boerkamps & Van
Binsbergen, 1999; Patier, 2006). It is apparent that, without some initial funding
from the central or local government to pay for feasibility studies and trials, any
form of UCC that is not related to a major new development is unlikely to
proceed, let alone succeed (TTR, 2010).
A common objection to UCCs is the assertion that they will lead to increased
costs in the delivery operation as a result of double handling (McKinnon,
1998a). It is, therefore, important to discuss the wider implications of such
Role of Urban Consolidation Centres 11
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schemes with the road transport industry and potential customers, and to demon-
strate that by using UCCs costs in other parts of their operation could be reduced.
Such reductions may be achieved through, for example, less time being spent on
deliveries in congested areas, shorter journey times and increased vehicle utiliz-
ation, and the possibility of night-time deliveries into the UCC. Efficiency gains
and additional sales can also be achieved from the value-added services that
can be provided by a UCC such as off-site stockholding facilities, and pre-retailing
activities such as unpacking, ticketing and handling returns. One of the key con-
siderations is how to allocate the costs and benefits resulting from a UCC scheme
as a whole and not solely the cost impact on the part of the supply chain or a single
player (Browne et al., 2005; Marcucci & Danielis, 2008; TTR, 2007).
Construction project UCCs and those that serve a single site with one landlord
present fewer financial issues than UCCs that serve part or all of an urban area.
This is because the landlord of a shopping centre or airport is able to make use
of a UCC a contractual condition of the site access and to build any necessary
charges into the rental arrangement for retailers (DHL, 2009; Hapgood, 2009).
Similarly in the case of a construction site, the property developer is responsible
for taking the decision to implement a UCC and meets its running costs and per-
sonally benefits from cost savings that it results in due to faster site development,
and less waste and theft of building materials. The London Heathrow airport con-
struction UCC operation resulted in a 2% saving in net project costs; on a major
development, this level of savings can far outweigh the cost of the consolidation
operation (Department of Trade and Industry, 2004; Transport for London et al.,
2008). In the case of the London Heathrow airport retail UCC, half of the
income is met by retailers and other outlets in the airport paying for the consoli-
dated delivery service, while 10% of the income is generated through charges
made for value-added services such as pre-retailing and off-site storage. The
remaining 40% of income is met by the airport operator HAL (Hapgood, 2009).
For UCCs that serve part or all of an urban area, the financial considerations are
often more complicated to resolve with schemes requiring on-going public
subsidy. For instance, in Bristol in 2007/08, 60% of the total UCC operating cost
came from Bristol City Council while retail users met the other 40% costs
(Hapgood, 2009). The UCC in La Rochelle has received a public subsidy ever
since it was established in 2001 (Mollard, 2002; Ville et al., 2010). In many such
UCCs, it is the intention that the proportion of cost recovery from users will be
increased over time and the level of public funding progressively reduced (see,
for example, van Rooijen & Quak, 2010 for discussion of the UCC set up in Nijme-
gen). This is usually intended to be achieved through signing up new users to gen-
erate greater product throughput, and selling more value-added services to users.
However, in such UCCs, it is likely that public support will be required on a con-
tinuing basis, given their voluntary nature and the typical lack of mechanisms for
enforcing retailer participation (TTR, 2010).
Imposing more stringent vehicle access restrictions for non-UCC vehicles, and
thereby providing the UCC with some competitive advantage, can help to
increase goods throughput and hence financial viability of UCCs. In Parma, the
mayor has stated that public authorities must accept the need to subsidize the
UCC as the market will not provide the environmentally sustainable urban
freight transport systems required (Ville et al., 2010). However, such a position
is difficult to maintain and justify in times of public funding cuts. The vehicle
access restrictions imposed by the city transport authority in Vicenza severely
12 J. Allen et al.
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limited the times at which goods vehicle deliveries were possible and thereby
encouraged the use of the UCC scheme. However, such an approach runs the
risk of decreasing the competitiveness of business es based in the UCC delivery
area if the services provided by the UCC are more expensive than the services pre-
viously offered by other carriers or, alternatively, require public subsidy to keep
down the prices charged by the UCC. In the case of Vicenza, the UCC receives
public funding from the city authority on the basis of the environmental improve-
ments that it achieves (Ville et al., 2010).
By comparison, a recent UCC trial in the City of London by Office Depot that has
now become an on-going operation is reported to result in no higher costs than the
delivery system that it replaced (Office Depot, 2010). Learning more about how
financial breakeven has been achieved in such a scheme is extremely important if
UCCs that serve part or all of an urban area are to be affordable in the future.
To establish a successful UCC trial it may be desirable for the participating
players to keep the initial cost base low. It is important that the trials be fit-for-
purpose but that the investment is kept to a minimum. Rather than build a new
consolidation centre, an existing building (with expansion potential) can be
used at the outset. Some recent UCC schemes that serve part of an urban area
have made use of relatively small, basic transhipment facilities (such as the
Paris UCC operated by La Petite Reine, and the City of London UCC operated
by Gnewt on behalf of Office Depot (Attlassy & University of Westminster,
2005; Office Depot, 2010). Physical expansion, more elaborate handling systems,
or additional capabilities such as chilled and frozen produce storage, can be devel-
oped over time.
Currently, in many UCC schemes, the carriers delivering goods to a UCC are not
asked to contribute towards the operating costs. Instead it is the receivers of the
goods located in the UCC catchment area who make payments for the service pro-
vided (exceptions to this include the UCCs in Monaco in which carriers and recei-
vers both pay a charge, Tenjin in Fukuoka City, Japan in which only carriers pay,
and Nijmegen in which only carriers pay for deliveries, with receivers only having
to pay for value-added services—Nemoto, 1997; Patier, 2006; van Rooijen & Quak,
2010). However, the carriers delivering goods to a UCC receive major benefits in
terms of time savings by not having to make deliveries in a congested urban area
or transport goods from shopping centre loading bays on foot to receivers’ outlets
located long distances away. Finding a suitable charging mechanism by which
these users can contribute towards the costs of the UCC operation is likely to be
important in making the financial model more sustainable and less dependent
on public subsidy in the longer term.
Operational Practices
The UCC concept proposed in some countries in the 1970s in which HGVs were to
be banned from entering urban areas and instead would tranship their loads onto
small goods vehicles is now recognized to have uncertain traffic or environmental
benefits, especially when the contents of a highly laden HGV are transferred into
many smaller goods vehicles (McKinnon, 1998a). Some current UCCs do make use
of vehicles for final delivery that can carry smaller loads than the vehicles drop-
ping goods at the UCC, such as the electrically assisted cycles used in UCCs in
Paris and London. However, although these smaller vehicles may lead to increases
in vehicle kilometres per tonne delivered, they are ideally suited for busy urban
Role of Urban Consolidation Centres 13
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areas and have environmental advantages due to not emitting greenhouse gases
and local air quality pollutants. Many operational UCCs make use of alternatively
fuelled goods vehicles for final delivery and have thereby become important
testing grounds for this technology (see, for example, van Duin, Quak, &
Mun
˜
uzuri, 2010; Gonzalez-Feliu & Morana, 2010; Kloppers, 2008; Office Depot,
2010; Patier, 2006; van Rooijen & Quak, 2010; START, 2008; Ville et al., 2010).
Whereas the primary focus of a UCC is to consolidate loads for final delivery, if
the transport operation is to be optimized, it is equally important that vehicles
returning to the UCC after making deliveries are as highly utilized as possible.
To achieve this, inter-site transfers, unsold stock, waste and damaged material
for recycling and orders placed by customers may all be candidates for return
loads (Browne et al., 2005; Kloppers, 2008). Having additional services at the
UCC may both increase revenue and augment the overall use of the UCC and
therefore its role within the urban area. The range of such activities can be
various: pre-retailing operations such as price ticketing and the removal of
outer packaging; the assembly of promotional offers; waste recycling; providing
a post-sale collection service for the retailers’ customers; and field stores for
service engineers are typical examples (Browne et al., 2005). Given that one of
the non-financial objections to UCCs is typically the loss of control and responsi-
bility for the final leg of the delivery operation, this can be overcome by the UCC
operator becoming the ‘final signatory’ for a delivery.
The location of the UCC in relation to its target market will have important con-
sequences for the traffic and environmental benefits associated with the scheme as
well as the commercial benefits of using it. If the UCC is located several kilometres
from the final delivery area, this has the advantage that vehicles delivering goods
to the area from some distance away would not need to enter into the urban area at
all. In addition, the distance over which specially designed environmentally
friendly vehicles were operated could be maximized. However, if small vehicles
were used from the UCC, the number of vehicle trips and kilometres may increase.
Alternatively, if the UCC was located very close to the area which it serves, this
reduces the distance over which environmentally friendly vehicles from the
UCC operate, and hence the environmental benefits of the UCC. There is clearly
a need to carefully balance such issues when deciding upon the location
(Browne et al., 2005; McKinnon, 1998a).
It is also important to note that a UCC will generate inbound and outbound
goods vehicle movements. Therefore, the area in which the UCC is based may
experience goods vehicle traffic growth, while the delivery area served by the
UCC will gain the traffic and environmental benefits. This implies the need for
neighbouring authorities to work closely together in planning UCCs with the
objective of mitigating the impact on any one authority.
Conclusions
If applied appropriately, UCCs have the ability both to improve supply chain per-
formance and reduce environmental and social impacts of freight transport
activity. They can, therefore, generate both internal and external benefits.
The literature review indicates that the level of interest in UCCs has been par-
ticularly strong in France, Germany, Italy Netherlands and the UK over the last
40 years and this has continued in the last decade. Most of this interest has
14 J. Allen et al.
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been focused on UCCs that serve part or all of an urban area, with many trials and
operational schemes taking place.
One of the major barriers concerned with making UCCs financially sustainable
(and hence securing their long-term future) is the extent to which the various par-
ticipants (carriers, receivers and local authorities) are willing and able to meet the
financial costs of the UCC in return for the benefits that they receive. In the case of
UCCs that serve major sites with a single landlord, this is relatively easy to resolve
as a single party is responsible for financing the UCC and then attempting to
recover some of these costs from those other parties that also obtain operational
and financial benefits from the scheme. In the case of construction project
UCCs, the developer is often responsible for both funding the UCC and receives
the operational and financial benefits through project cost savings.
The financial situation for UCCs that serve all or part of an urban area is more
problematic. In these cases, the decision to make use of the UCC is typically a
voluntary one and there is no single private body that is responsible for financing
the UCC or enjoying its benefits. Instead there are usually many business users, as
well as a local authority that is keen to reduce traffic and environmental costs. The
financial costs therefore tend to be shared unequally between these parties, with
the local authority often taking a disproportionate role. This type of UCC offers
the greatest potential to reduce urban freight transport impacts, given the
locations of the schemes in central areas in towns and cities. However, it has
also been subject to a substantial number of abandoned UCC trials.
In the same manner that it is desirable that any initial financial investment in a
UCC be mini mized, the same applies to the operating methods employed during
any trial. It is at the pilot stage that the potential users will be persuaded with
regard to the validity of the concept and it is, therefore, important that the oper-
ation is simple and straightforward. It may therefore be appropriate to initially
consider only simple handling, sortation and transhipment methods. However,
some UCC schemes will need to offer additional value-added services to both
make them attractive to users and to generate additional revenue. However,
such services significantly increase the logistical complexity, and hence cost, of
the UCC.
Obtaining high product throughput at a UCC is likely to result in sufficiently
low costs that business users could fund the entire UCC operation, and remove
the need for public subsidy. However, until that point is reached public funding
may be required. Some local transport authorities have implemented additional
freight transport policy measures that either restrict vehicles not using the
centre or provide benefits to UCC vehicles in order to enhance the operational
benefits of the UCC, in an effort to obtain a greater number of users and products
throughput at the UCC. This ranges from minor ‘incentives’ such as allowing UCC
vehicles to use bus lanes, through to major restrictions such as the prohibition of
all non-UCC vehicles from the specified delivery area. At its most extreme, this
prevents competition between urban freight transport providers and results in
the creation of public sector appointed monopolistic operator. This is a draconian
method by which to try to bring about traffic and environmental improvements in
urban freight. A better approach involves ensuring that the logistics services pro-
vided by the UCC are sufficiently commercially beneficial that users voluntarily
decide to use and pay for the service, and that a charging mechanism is developed
and put in place that ensures all users (carriers and receivers) make financial
contributions to reflect the commercial benefits they derive. This may involve
Role of Urban Consolidation Centres 15
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some additional freight transport policy incentives to further enhance the UCC’s
operational benefits. In this way, public subsidies can be progressively reduced as
the UCC market share is increased, until the point is reached whereby the UCC is
financially self-supporting.
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... Acceptability of Green practices [36][37][38] Green practices in logistics management are described as green purchasing, green production, green materials management, green distribution, and reverse logistics. ...
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... Some of the latter focus on improving the supply side such as building new infrastructure, enhancing parking space and operation; some others focus on logistics interventions such as fostering consolidation centers; and others focus on freight demand management strategies such as pricing, off-hour deliveries and receiver-led consolidation programs (Allen et al. 2000, Muñuzuri et al. 2005, Holguín-Veras et al. 2015. Predominant UFT policies in Europe include low emissions zones which restrict poor environmental standard vehicles from accessing urban centers (Tögel and Š pička 2014), urban consolidation centers aimed at mitigating freight traffic impacts by replacing partially loaded trucks with fully loaded ones (Allen et al. 2012), access restrictions to urban centers for certain vehicle sizes, time windows for deliveries (CLARS 2020), and land-use policies envisioned to incorporate freight operations in urban infrastructure development projects (Transmodal Limited 2012). ...
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... The topics of studies and UDC as a city logistics initiative focused on minimisation of traffic associated with freight vehicles, emissions generated by lorries deployed in urban areas and air pollution from a local standpoint are addressed, for instance, in the publications [8] and [9]. In [10], van Duin el al. advise the municipality of the Hague whether the implementation of UDC is feasible and desirable based on identified circumstances leading to success or failure of UDC establishments in practice abroad. ...
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... For instance, routing optimization of vehicles from an Urban Distribution Center (UDC). The UDC is a transshipment hub where goods can be sorted and consolidated, before being distributed in the city [4]. It is one of the most popular solutions in urban logistics as it allows the rationalization of goods flows, namely by reducing the number of vehicles entering the urban environment and thus reducing the negative impacts of UFT (congestion, CO2 emission. . . ) [1]. ...
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... In turn (Carrion and Levinson, 2010;Kouwenhoven, de Jong, Koster, van den Berg, Verhoef, Bates, and Warffemius, 2014) observed that passengers choosing public means of transport also take into account the variability of time attributes. On the other hand (Allen, Browne, Woodburn, and Leonardi, 2012;Soza-Parra, Raveau, Muñoz, and Cats, 2019), in their research, assessed the time in relation to the declared satisfaction with the public transport service. ...
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The full PhD thesis is available here: http://hdl.handle.net/10890/25934 The thesis booklet in English is available here: https://repozitorium.omikk.bme.hu/bitstream/handle/10890/25934/tezis_eng.pdf?sequence=4&isAllowed=y
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