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Sustainable Freight Distribution in a Historic Urban Centre

Ireland Flag
Geo-spatial type
STRIA Roadmaps
Network and traffic management systems (NTM)
Smart mobility and services (SMO)
Transport mode
Road icon
Transport sectors
Freight transport


Background & Policy context

Motivation for this project lies in a desire to provide a long-term sustainable solution for freight deliveries in Dublin City Centre. Freight transport is an essential and unavoidable fact of city life involving a large number of affected user groups. The increase in freight transport and the demand for just-in-time tailor-made urban goods deliveries poses considerable difficulties for transportation planning and sustainability in cities and affects the various stakeholders involved in urban freight in different ways.

Problems suffered or indeed caused by freight traffic are numerous and often interrelated. Accessibility problems are both encountered and caused by urban goods transport. These problems are mainly attributable to insufficient infrastructure, access restrictions and congestion. On-street parking can be a major problem in city centres.

Specifically in Dublin, the volume of goods imported and exported through Dublin port has grown significantly since 1997. The traffic that this business generates at 350,000 truck movements per annum is expected to cause major congestion in the city centre until the port relief tunnel opens in 2005. Combined with this increase in freight traffic has been a large increase in passenger car traffic. Car numbers in Ireland are expected to double between 1996 and 2016 from 1.1m to 2.1m. It is within this difficult environment that freight transport takes place.


The primary aim and long term goal of this project is to ascertain whether city centre deliveries can be managed in a way that is acceptable to city centre businesses while bearing in mind environmental concerns. One of the most important objectives of the project was to ascertain key delivery trends and patterns in Dublin City Centre and to develop sustainable solutions in line with these trends and patterns.

The project focuses on the efficient organisation of urban logistics through a number of possibilities: organised consolidation of goods, where goods can be transferred from big trucks into smaller vehicles, the use of eco-friendly vehicles, and a number of other delivery scenarios such as managing the last mile of deliveries and city access control. Another key objective of the project was to disseminate the findings uncovered over course of the two year project. This was primarily achieved through presentations and publications.


In order to ascertain key delivery patterns and trends in Dublin City Centre, a survey of city centre deliveries to over 150 businesses was carried out. The surveys generated new data that describe deliveries in terms of key variables: 

  1. the time of day;
  2. types of goods carried;
  3. types of vehicles and packaging used;
  4. dwell times for deliveries;
  5. how and where unloading occurs;
  6. the origins of the suppliers.

On the basis of an analysis of the available data, niche applications and possible scenarios were identified for more sustainable logistics solutions.

The criteria used to develop these scenarios were: 

  1. the likely reduction in delivery trips;
  2. trips taken out of peak;
  3. the environmental benefits;
  4. operational feasibility; and
  5. the willingness of the parties concerned to buy-in to the solutions proposed.

Four scenarios were developed, namely:

  • City Centre Access Control
  • External consolidation at a UDC
  • Managing 'last mile' deliveries by means of a platform
  • Eco-friendly low noise and low emission vehicles and ancillaries.

In order to disseminate the findings of the project, a number of presentations and publications were undertaken. Publications produced as a result of work carried out on the project include the following:

  • 'An Analysis of Goods Deliveries in Dublin City Centre' 36th Annual Conference of the University Transport Study Group, Newcastle 2004(CD-ROM) Proceedings, Finnegan, C. and O'Mahony, M. (2004)
  • 'Examining the Potential for Urban Distribution Centres in Dublin', 83rd Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board, Washington DC, 2004 (CD-ROM) Proceedings, Finnegan C., Finlay, H. and O'Mahony, M. (2004)
  • 'Patterns of Freight Distribution within a Historic Urban Centre' Presented to the AET European Congress Strasbourg 2003 (CD-ROM) Proceedings, Finnegan, C., Finlay, H. and O'Mahony, M. (2003)
  • 'National Freight Delivery Trends and the their Implications: A Case Study of Irish Road Freight'. 37th Annual Conference of University Transport Study Group, Bristol 2005. Finnegan, C. and O'Mahony, M.
  • 'Urban Freight in Dublin City Centre: Survey Analysis and Strategy Evaluati


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Public institution
Institution Name
The Department of Transport/administered by Higher Education Authority
Type of funding
Public (national/regional/local)


Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


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