Private traffic flows and freight distribution processes are major sources of energy consumption, noxious gas emissions and noise levels in urban areas, causing negative impacts on the environmental quality of cities. Improvements to transport and logistical systems can help to counter this. Public transport services in particular can be more flexible, taking into account changing mobility requirements (e.g. low demand areas/periods, city-peripheral journeys, and commuting). EU transport ministers have called for more flexible public transport services, including specialised Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) systems that complement conventional scheduled passenger transport, and are more responsive to customer needs.
The ELBA project focused on the planning, implementation and demonstration of an advanced eco-sustainable mobility scheme for people and goods on the island of Elba, which lies just off the Italian mainland close to Piombino. The aim was to implement an integrated system based on a set of 'intermediate' and 'flexible' transport and logistics schemes, and to make use of eco-friendly vehicles, thus improving energy efficiency and the quality of Elba's environment. The project aimed to propose versatile models that could also be applied in other national and international contexts.
The ELBA project implemented an integrated, eco-sustainable and flexible transport service on the island of Elba. It took into account the specific characteristics of the island and its environmental and logistical context (e.g. short distances travelled, frequent mainland-islands trips, seasonal tourist mobility and hotel locations), and proposed versatile models that could also be applied in other European locations. The project developed an innovative logistics schemes involving goods transfer and delivery services from Piombino Port (mainland) to locations around Elba Island. This incorporated a range of parameters, such as loading at the port, delivery on the island, laundry services for hotels and restaurants, and special deliveries for a range of other categories. For this, the project team adapted ICT solutions to support service operation and coordination. Project partner Softeco Sismat developed innovative technological platforms, both for goods (technological platform ElbaFreight) and for public transport (technology platform ElbaShuttle). These were tested, validated and installed on vehicles during the demonstration phase. In addition, dedicated smartphone App's, using QR code printed on panels at bus stops, provided schedules of ELBA services and other information.
The project’s Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) system uses eco-friendly vehicles (e.g. electric vans, hybrid vans and minibuses) for the sustainable operation of ELBA freight and passenger services, ensuring pollution reduction (greenhouse gases, local emissions, noise and vibration) and rationalisation of energy use. It should also lead to a reduction of incoming car traffic to the island, through a shift from private car use to a more flexible transport system, which will reduce freight traffic impacts on the island. For each service implemented, the coordinating beneficiary calculated reduced pollutant emissions and energy usage. When extrapolated to an annual basis, they demonstrated an overall reduction in emissions of around 85 tonnes/year of CO2 eq and a reduction in energy consumption of 6.6 toe/year. Noise abatement was verified by means of acoustic measurements performed on different vehicles. Reduced levels of noise occurred for electric and bimodal vehicles in electric mode, of about 15%-30% of noise, compared to conventional vehicles, which is particularly significant in urban areas. This is one of the few European cases to address the integrated mobility of people and goods on small islands, and is thus a valuable demonstration for best practice. In particular, it demonstrated specific procedures for the renting of vehicles for local public transport services. One of the important results of the project was to coordinate renting companies and the Offices of Motor Vehicles (Ministry of Transport), enabling entities (e.g. municipalities, transport companies) that previously did not have the economic resources necessary for the purchase of environmentally-friendly vehicles to rent environmentally-friendly vehicles for limited time periods, to operate the ELBA services.
The project addressed the limitations on small Mediterranean islands, such as a general lack of networks for the distribution of CNG (compressed natural gas), charging stations for FEV (fully electric vehicles), and complicating factors such as terrain (e.g. steep roads). Thanks to the careful testing and selection of different types of vehicles on the market, the project demonstrated the viability of bimodal vehicles (electric-diesel Euro 4 FAP) for transport services involving people and goods. They were found to be more suitable than classic electric or hybrid vehicles, and can be operated at lower cost compared to the FEV/hybrid means of transport.
Estimates performed by the project partner CTT show that the cost for seasonal services, such as ELBA Spiagge (Beaches) or ELBA Est (East) amount to about €60 000 (over a three month period), which can be partly covered by ticket sales and the local tax each passenger pays in addition to the cost of the ferry. As for the service ELBA FREIGHT, the consolidation of the goods on the mainland allows savings on ferry costs.
As for the social benefits, the eco-sustainable mobility services were highly appreciated by tourists and residents, and helped to improve the perception of the quality of the overall local public transport system. Moreover, the services filled in some of the gaps in public transport (both in terms of schedule and served locations), leading to positive effects in terms of social inclusion for otherwise disadvantaged citizens.
The solutions adopted by the project were applied to the Greek island of Corfù. This demonstrated the high level of replicability/transferability of the project to similar contexts, in its various aspects (e.g. methodological approach, services, measures, technologies), on small islands characterised by areas of high environmental value and strong anthropogenic pressures, in particular, summer holiday traffic. The project demonstrated the importance of underlying environmental policy and regulations, while the adoption of ELBA sustainable mobility services helps implement SEAP (Plan of Action for Sustainable Energy) on Elba Island, which was developed as part of the Covenant of Mayors.