Freight transport in urban centre is a major issue for communities, who have to balance pleasant living conditions and economic activities necessary to city life.

rue commerçante LilleMore people come and live in city centres, which leads to new urban commercial activities. More population also means more needs in terms of buildings, community facilities and rehabilitation of neighbourhoods. It also means more waste to process. All this generates more transport. Also, the growth of e-commerce implies more deliveries to private persons. If we do not become aware of this today, our cities will be faced with major challenges tomorrow.

At the same time, people are more and more aware of the need to reduce the burden of economic, commercial and transport activities on the environment. The community as a whole must find solutions to tackle these economic, urban, social and environmental issues.

The project of Multimodal City Distribution Centre (CMDU ©, Centre Multimodal de Distribution Urbaine) launched by the Chamber of Commerce of Lille and the Port of Lille concretely addresses these issues.

Indeed, the CMDU project aims at a new organization of freight transport in the city based on the pooling, grouping and optimization of flows, on shared knowledge and the use of “soft” transport modes. Specifically, the project aims at designing, developing and creating an operational multimodal urban logistic platform in Lille.

Port de LilleHosted by the Port of Lille, this platform will be able to:

  • Accommodate multimodal freight flows (rail, road, water);
  • Receive, store and possibly  handle (packaging, sorting, etc.) these goods;
  • Supply businesses and outlets of the Lille conurbation, as well as “e-shops” individual customers, by pooling resources;
  • Collect waste in the city and goods at the end of their life cycle, packages etc;
  • Receive return flows (reverse logistics) and group them to lower their transport cost;
  • Promote the use of environmentally friendly transport modes that use less energy.

Logo ULISThe CMDU will have two major sides. On the one hand, infrastructure, handling equipment and storage equipment, which will be provided by the Port of Lille. On the other hand, an information sharing system to manage and control flows called “ULIS ©” (Urban Logistics Intelligent System). Logistics and transport activities will be managed by  private companies.

This project is a collective process that brings many economic players together, namely: public and local authorities, transport and logistics operators, sector organizations, businesses and distributors, service providers and computer engineering companies, university and research institutes.

At the end of 2012, the first list of services was developed and an audit of buildings and infrastructure completed, which will lead to refurbishments in 2013. A study defining the technical arrangements (arrangement, picking, sorting, …) was needed before delivering services and was conducted. The architecture of ULIS has been fine-tuned and the first components of this information management system are being developed, among which the Warehouse Management System.

The first tests are taking place with a company that has 4 retail points in the city centre and two transport companies. The resulting economic models are being developed and validated. A modal shift study is underway and should elaborate on the question of deliveries from pooled logistic or industrial centres, in early 2013. Finally, reflections on the future vehicle of urban logistics will start in January.

2011 was the year of ideas, 2012 the year of planning, and 2013 will be the year of implementation and real-size experimentation!