While some European cities have adopted cargo tram as a means of transporting specific commodities, the idea of setting up logistics networks using light rail remains relatively unexplored. But as Keith Barrow discovers, Amsterdam is embarking on a bold plan that could offer a very attractive and sustainable alternative to city centre road deliveries. ...Much of the route of the Sydney Light Rail was previously a goods line, so there are several existing warehouses and sites for new facilities along the route. These have good road and rail access. These could be used to interchange cargo to specially build goods trams, or to a cargo compartment built into some of the existing trams. As with the Amsterdam system the cargo would be transferred using standard size pallets, making for quick loading and unloading.
City Cargo Amsterdam, the company set up to operate the cargo trams, subsequently drew plans to bring the concept to Amsterdam and in November 2006, the city council approved a four-week pilot project. This small-scale trial ran in March this year using two LRVs loaned by Amsterdam Municipal Transport (GVB). During the trial, trams were loaded from lorries at Lutkemeerpolde, near the terminus of Line 1 in Osdorp, before running to two transfer points between Plantage Parklaan and Frederiksplein, where the freight was offloaded onto electrically-powered road vehicles for the remainder of its journey to the customers’ premises.
For the first two weeks the trams ran empty to assess the impact on traffic patterns. During the final two weeks of the trial, the trams operated with customers’ freight that normally would have been delivered by road. The trial was deemed successful enough for the city council to grant City Cargo Amsterdam a 10-year concession to operate cargo trams on the GVB network on a commercial basis from next year. Under this concession, City Cargo Amsterdam must operate without any subsidy from the municipality or central government, and has to guarantee that GVB’s passenger operations will not be disrupted by its activities. ...
The cargo trams will operate from distribution centres, called cross docks, situated on the outskirts of the city close to the highways that radiate from Amsterdam. These cross docks will be supplied outside peak traffic hours ...
From: Light ideas for urban freight, by Keith Barrow, International Railway Journal, IRJ, November 2007
Using an existing warehouse adjacent to the tram line, such a system could be implemented for less than a hundred thousand dollars. The trams could be loaded and unloaded in a few minutes, allowing this to be done on the main line, without the need for a siding and without the need to interrupt passenger operations.
The trams could also be used for transport of mail and small packages. One way to make a flexible system would be to transfer items using the existing passenger stations and trams. The platforms would have small courier offices, accepting items and arranging for their dispatch.