VGF tests freight transport by tram

Verkehrsgesellschaft Frankfurt am Main shows demo run of freight rail streetcar with containers from Cargobike manufacturer ONOMOTION at bike logistics conference

VFrom road to rail: at the start of the 2nd National Cycle Logistics Conference in Frankfurt am Main, Verkehrsgesellschaft Frankfurt am Main mbH (VGF) and ONOMOTION GmbH demonstrated how containerization and streetcars work for emission-free city logistics. Together with VGF, the Berlin-based mobility service provider showed how goods are transported along the entire supply chain in standardized containers using a freight streetcar and the ONO e-load bike. The interaction of several modes of transport on the “middle” and “last mile” such as streetcar and e-cargo bike has great potential to become the new standard of urban logistics. For more information on the 2nd National Bike Logistics Conference,

“VGF has already been testing and evaluating freight streetcar options with various partners since 2018. We are excited about how much potential there is in this idea and how the project has developed technically and in terms of content “, explains Michael Rüffer, Managing Director of VGF. VGF already has its own first electric cargo bike. The “VGFlex” presented in July 2021 will be used for fast, environmentally friendly and flexible customer service where it is needed at short notice. For example, to provide on-site information about construction sites and detours with the ONO.

From ONOMOTION’s perspective, the combination of streetcar and Cargobike is the logical implementation of the white paper “Intermodal Logistics Chain in Urban Areas”. ONOMOTION had already published this together with partners at the beginning of the year. Using Frankfurt am Main as an example, the authors showed that up to 80 percent of inner-city deliveries could be realized with the help of combined transport and that CO2 emissions could be reduced by almost 64 percent.

The Gütertram concept is not new. There were already pilot projects in Frankfurt and other cities a few years ago. This idea is now being taken a step further. In the approach, the partners are integrating existing infrastructure such as streetcar tracks, streetcar trains and the emission-free e-freight bikes from ONOMOTION. The starting point for the test drive in Frankfurt was the VGF depot Gutleut. There, ONOMOTION demonstrated how the standardized and compact city containers can be removed from the ONO and rolled over a ramp into the streetcar and fastened there without much effort. The containers, with a capacity of 2.1 cubic meters and a length of 1.70 meters, fit easily into the multi-purpose area of a streetcar. In other words, where there is usually room for baby carriages and wheelchairs. After a short trip to the Frankfurt Messe turning loop, the containers will be reattached to the ONO. “The road will not be able to solve the traffic congestion in the cities. With rail vehicles and integrated cargo bike delivery, we offer an ecologically and economically sensible alternative that has a lot of potential,” says ONOMOTION Managing Director Beres Seelbach.

Theoretically, two types of use of a freight streetcar are conceivable for public transport companies: One is the mixed use of goods and passengers. In this case, the companies can integrate container transport into regular operations and would thus avoid empty runs during off-peak times in the evening and early morning. However, the area for passengers must be separated from the freight transport. Secondly, an exclusive use of the streetcar as freight streetcar. This picks up the already picked containers from a depot on the outskirts of the city and transports them to suitable stops along the inner-city routes. From there, ONO then picks up the dockable containers for fine distribution to households. This type of transport would have the advantage of flexible use of the streetcar lines for freight transport and would guarantee a higher transport volume with up to ten containers per freight streetcar.

White paper “Intermodal logistics chain in urban areas”

Global trade has shown for decades that the distribution of freight traffic among several modes of transport has potential. Standardized containers enable and accelerate these combined transports. Taking Frankfurt am Main as an example, with a freight volume of 14,500 daily packages in the inner-city districts, the authors of the white paper “Intermodal supply chain in urban areas” show that 80 percent, or around 11,600 packages, could be delivered by cargo streetcar and e-load bike. Only 20 percent, or about 2,900 deliveries, would have to be delivered by traditional means due to size and weight. The major advantage of such a hybrid supply chain on the “middle” and “last mile” is the reduction of CO2 emissions in addition to the traffic relief on the roads. The exemplary volume of 14,500 parcels in the inner-city area causes only 1.1 tons of CO2 in the combination of several modes of transport with the standardized containers. Compared with the single-stage transport route, this corresponds to a saving of just under 64 percent. At the same time, at 27.62 euros per cubic meter, this route is cost-neutral compared with the conventional transport route. The Berlin-based Cargobike manufacturer ONOMOTION GmbH, Porsche Consulting, EIT InnoEnergy, the Hörmann Group, EURA, Hermes Germany GmbH and the Research Lab for Urban Transport at the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences were involved in the white paper.