Skip to main content
European Commission logo

Inter- and Intra- Urban Freight Distribution Networks

European Union
Complete with results
Geo-spatial type
Project Acronym
STRIA Roadmaps
Network and traffic management systems (NTM)
Smart mobility and services (SMO)
Transport mode
Road icon
Transport sectors
Freight transport


Background & Policy context

Road freight transport has increased dramatically in the past decades within the urban conglomeration and the negative aspects of this growth are most visible in all European urban areas: road congestion, noise and pollutants emissions and accidents are problems that decrease the quality of the urban environment. Currently, many cities are imposing limitations for delivery of shopping centers by heavy vehicles and initiatives for urban freight distribution were undertaken. Although most of the developments mentioned above have started only recently, some first results seem very counterintuitive: instead of reducing congestion, some Urban Distribution Centres generate more freight vehicle movements than before.
Within the CITY FREIGHT project, the socio-economic and environmental impacts of changes in freight transport and door-to-door delivery in a variety of European conurbations will be analysed in a systematic and innovative way.


The objectives of the CITY FREIGHT project are the following:

  • to identify and analyse working of innovative logistic schemes in seven countries as well as the urban policies which could support their implementation in order to promote a more sustainable development; 
  • to set up a list of criteria and a common assessment method for evaluating the schemes and the related accompanying policies (legal framework, land use planning, pricing); 
  • to analyse their internal technical and economical efficiency; 
  • to design, for one city or one urban region in each country, one or more schemes implementation scenarios and related accompanying policies; 
  • to assess and optimise the scenarios according to the urban sustainable development criteria;
  • to present guidelines for implementing integrated strategies that could be recommended as 'Best Practices'; 
  • to disseminate and exploit the Best Practice Guidelines through collaboration with the Local Authorities for the design of concrete implementation plans of integrated strategies.

The project will carry out an analysis of selected supply chains, already functioning in Europe, and an evaluation of their impacts on the urban environment using a common assessment methodology.
A number of indicators have been developed to select the most promising initiatives and each initiative has provided a set of characteristics, so that the conditions (city size, logistic level, etc.) under which it successfully could be applied have been listed. A methodology, focusing on contacts with local stakeholders, to construct the different scenarios implementing the specific initiatives has been defined as well as a number of common assumptions and parameters to be used in the project.


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Public institution
Institution Name
European Commission, Directorate-General for Research (DG Research)
Type of funding
Public (EU)


The main outcome of CITYFREIGHT has been to provide guidelines for interested stakeholders (government, regional, or local authorities, network operators, shippers and consignees) on the advantages and drawbacks of some recent innovations in the field of inter- and intra-urban freight distribution systems. CITY FREIGHT has taken steps towards assessing a number of initiatives implemented in Europe and, furthermore, a initiatives database has been built, allowing the user to pre-select initiatives to adapt to their local situation and which have been successful in other places.

The main results can be summarised in the following clusters:


These solutions usually are connected to deliveries outside the opening hours. In fact, the benefits of night deliveries are that the goods traffic avoids the peak hours of morning and afternoon traffic, thus decreasing congestion and improving the use of transport capacity and the speed of deliveries. Logistics companies can also improve the use of vehicle capacity when the time windows for distributions are wider. Night deliveries have been successfully implemented in retail chains, where the company is responsible for delivering goods and the stores are not located too close to residential areas. The biggest problem with off-peak deliveries is that it affects the quality of life of inhabitants in terms of noise emissions. To this purpose, many towns in the UK have imposed bans on night traffic of lorries and in the Netherlands noiseless cargo handling techniques and equipment are being developed within a project. A further solution is deliveries on a scheduled day and time that enable the improved planning of reception of goods and decreases queue formation. Successful implementation of this method was reported by a major department store in Tampere, Finland.


These initiatives aim at increasing co-operation among logistics companies and provide new and improved services in the distribution market. The most common form of co-operation is the consolidation of goods to be distributed and/or collected by different transport operators or suppliers. Consolidation reduces the number of vehicles needed for delivering the same amount of goods, improving the cost-efficiency of transport companies and reducing the environmental impacts. The British government is very interested in the possibilities of consolidation, since they offer one of the most efficient mea

Policy implications

The most important general recommendations useful for the design,implementation and/or improvement of an urban freight distribution initiative and related to the project, are summarised as follows:

  1. A thorough problem analysis and a clear definition of objectives are essential:
    Urban freight distribution includes three main elements: the transport chain, the actors and the urban context. It is essential to combine 'who' (actors), with 'what' (the distribution model), 'where' (the urban or interurban context) and 'when' (certain time) in all project steps. A thorough problem diagnosis including the interrelations among the key elements (benefits/drawbacks, actors, urban/national context, distribution model/transport chain, time) is important to define sustainable objectives and solutions.Furthermore, quantifying drawbacks/benefits per actors category can help in identifying problems and defining objectives and solutions.
  2. Urban freight distribution initiatives often impact an area which exceeds the city:
    Urban freight is part of transport and logistics chain which often involve a larger area than only one city. Therefore, it is difficult to design a policy aimed at influencing urban freight distribution without affecting the interurban links of goods flows. Since the transport chain covers a large geographical area, so the problems, objectives, solutions, benefits and drawbacks beyond the city's boundaries should be considered. Sometimes, this involves hard choices and conflicts of interest: for example, some forms of interurban transport (heavy trucks) have an impact on the urban environment and vice-versa. From a global perspective, freight transport and logistics produce far more emissions outside of cities than within cities, but their nuisances (noise, accidents, etc.) tend to be more hardly felt within cities. City authorities may find it in their best interest to ban larger lorries from their territory but unless they are willing to support the development of rail freight terminals and/or transhipment facilities, their regulations can result in undesirable traffic increase on the road network.
  3. Urban freight transport requires a systemic approach:
    The analysis of urban freight logistics should always be based on a systemic approach, taking into account all the effects of problems and options. In fact, the urban freight distribution interrelates with different policy


Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


Contribute! Submit your project

Do you wish to submit a project or a programme? Head over to the Contribute page, login and follow the process!