Innovation VGF

Cargo tram

Packages arrive by rail

Climate change and mobility turnaround – two of the most important issues of our time have been pushed into the background by the Corona pandemic and its effects. However, they remain important fields of action for local politics, business and transport service providers, especially in congested inner cities like Frankfurt. Less motorized traffic in the city center and a simultaneous increase in the quality of life – these were already the considerations of the VGF in 2018.

Together with the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences and other partners, we conducted the “Last Mile Tram” research project. The core question: How can the VGF infrastructure – after all, 68.67 km of operating line length with 139 stops – be used for logistics transport? 

  • Research project investigated (scientifically) the concept of a cargo tram in Frankfurt am Main

  • Project partners: Research Lab for Urban Transport, Hermes Germany, Klimabündnis Frankfurt, Verkehrsgesellschaft Frankfurt

  • Location analysis showed which stations are suitable for loading and unloading

  • Pilot test showed the technical feasibility of the concept

  • Calculation of costs/package and emissions/package

Climate change, mobility turnaround, quality of life – the “cargo tram” project offers concrete solutions. Less CO² emissions, less delivery traffic in the city center, more quality of life! The cargo tram project is a concrete contribution by VGF to the pressing issues of our time.

In 2021 and 2022, we have further developed this idea and implemented concrete test trials on how the “last mile” can succeed sustainably and cleanly.

Among other things, the last meters are to be overcome by (electric) cargo bicycles after the transfer from the cargo streetcar to the micro-hubs.

The idea:

The “cargo tram” takes over part of the logistics chain and hands over to (electric) cargo bikes for the last meters or delivers directly to packing stations or micro-hubs.

CEP service providers hand over standardized containers or bags at stops in outlying districts (e.g. Hugo-Junkers loop, stadium) of the city of Frankfurt or at VGF properties (e.g. ZWI, Gutleut or Ost depots). The train runs subordinate to the passenger traffic to stops close to the city center (e.g. Zoo loop, Messe loop, Lokalbahnhof) where a longer stop time (approx. 15-30 min) does not disturb the passenger traffic. There, the standardized containers or bags are transferred to cargo bikes and delivered.

Current status:

Four fields of action are being worked on in parallel.

1.) legal issues
Cargo trams must not interfere with the safety and performance of passenger traffic. In addition, issues relating to public procurement law, state aid law and tax law must be clarified.

2.) technical issues
How do existing railroads have to be converted to achieve the best possible capacity utilization? How do we achieve (in coordination with the bike logistics association?) standardized containers that fit both on the lanes and on cargo bikes?

3.) financial issues
Investment costs for conversion of existing lanes and additional staff must be met. If implemented as a regular service, infrastructure will need to be expanded and adapted. 

4.) external coordination
In addition to close coordination with the higher political level (Department of Mobility and Health of the City of Frankfurt), a coordination process is taking place with the State of Hesse. The cargo tram is a “pilot project” in the logistics concept of the city of Frankfurt. Exchange and coordination takes place with Hermes Logistik, Radlogistikverband (RLVD), Frankfurter Entsorgungs- und Service GmbH (FES) and other (potential) partners.

Internal test runs

  • Transporting goods between the VGF workshops and depots by rail

  • Test and evaluate general conditions of internal goods transport and define further steps

  • Various test days under “real conditions

  • Transport vehicles (lattice boxes) filled with daily stock materials and vehicle components 

Coalition agreement City of Frankfurt

“We strive for the complete avoidance of fossil-fueled vehicles on the “last mile” of goods and merchandise distribution.”

“Together with business and science, we are developing and testing concepts for a distribution point infrastructure that enables environmentally friendly goods distribution and replaces door-to-door trucks. This includes, in particular, the cargo tram pilot test.”

Ein neues Frankfurt gestalten, Koalitionsvertrag 2021 - 2026, Logos der Frankfurter Bündnis 90/Die Grünen, SPD, FDP und Volt.

Logistics concept City of Frankfurt

“For the city of Frankfurt am Main, the use of a cargo tram lends itself to building on the experiences of the already implemented VGF pilot project “Last-Mile-Tram” from 2019.” (Measures for logistics concept M5, page17)

“As part of the cargo tram concept, VGF can act as a “carrier”, i.e. freight forwarders and parcel service providers can book loading space in the transport containers. VGF plans routes and transports or the rail transport schedule.” (Measures for logistics concept M5, page17)

Further information on the “Logistics Concept Frankfurt” can be found here.

Logo Logistikkonzept Frankfurt