When switching to a sustainable transport system, one key factor involves shifting more freight transport from road to rail. This change, however, can result in increased environmental problems in the local urban environment – primarily due to transshipment from train to lorry, that must almost always take place in order to transport the freight the last mile.
For historical reasons, intermodal freight terminals are generally located in close vicinity to the passenger train station. An increased level of rail freight leads to more local air pollution, noise and congestion at these central locations. If, on the other hand, freight is transported by road the entire distance, the negative effects inside cities may diminish, for instance because many lorries do not need to enter the urban core.
So the question is: how can this dilemma of global sustainability versus local sustainability be resolved? Sönke Behrends investigated the issue in his thesis at Chalmers University of Technology.
“Local politicians and authorities must take rail freight more into account when planning cities; in part to create a better city for residents, and in part to increase the competitiveness of rail, which is currently limited by freight terminals that are difficult to access and that have a low degree of efficiency during transshipment to lorry,” he says.