Under the Morand bridge, in the center of Lyon, the barge slips discreetly against the quay and unloads without waiting for its goods. These plastic pallet boxes, held by neon green straps, contain between 5 and 10 tonnes of drinks, parcels and other products, recovered at the Édouard-Herriot port, in the south of the metropolis.
The shipment is intended for businesses in the city center. Installed on the right bank of the Rhône, on the Presqu’île side, this landing platform makes it possible to redistribute the goods between seven electric cargo bikes, which will thread their way through the streets to ensure the last kilometer of delivery.
“It’s like a beehive and its bees, whose activity is governed by a precise algorithm,” explains Thomas Castan, founder and president of Urban Logistic Solution (ULS), which developed this link to green urban logistics. . Six months ago, the Alsatian company, already present in Strasbourg, was able to deploy it in Lyon, after winning the call for projects launched by Voies navigables de France (VNF) and the Compagnie nationale du Rhône (CNR), associated to the municipality and the metropolis. Objective ? Reinvest the river.
Cleaner and more reliable transport
“The problems of the road, developed to the detriment of the rail and the river, we know them: pollution, congestion, but also the occupation of public space”, recalls Jean-Charles Kohlhaas, vice-president in charge of transport at the metropolis of Lyon. We must, of course, add to this a new decisive element: the low emission zones (ZFE), which will quickly prohibit the city center to the most polluting vehicles, including trucks.
Rivers, which allow cleaner transport – less CO2 emissions – with more capacity and better reliability – less traffic, fewer accidents – have a card to play. If the companies are at the origin of the solutions, the community assumes a role of facilitator: “We are working on the establishment of a plan for the use of the river banks and the construction of an urban logistics hotel”, details the chosen one.
The approach is therefore intended to develop gradually. At the scale of ULS, for example, the ultimate goal is to load 122 tons daily, a fleet of 15 bicycles and around ten rotations each day. But, above all, river transport should extend more widely to the Lyon region where several experiments have already taken place, such as the port of Villefranche-sur-Saône. BFT Transports, together with the Beaujolais Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inter Beaujolais, and the Rhône Chamber of Agriculture, has tested “Beaujo’Lyon” there on several occasions.
This barge-cargo brings local food products, such as wine and cheese, to the city center of Lyon. It should be made permanent in 2023, in the form of a monthly line for a volume of 50 tonnes. “The difference is the journey time. It goes from 1 hour for a truck to 3 hours for a boat. But we should be able to compensate by opening the port earlier! “, explains Alexandre de Franceschi, deputy general manager of the CCI.
A “complicated” change
The initiative responds to the ethical approach of both suppliers and customers, but remains on a small scale. Real change always seems complicated, according to Thomas Castan. If the company managed to convince the logistics company Géodis, “few large groups are ready to change their habits to entrust us with 100% of their turnover”. The professional ensures that the price is the same, “but a few cents can make all the difference”, explains Laetitia Dablanc, urban planner and head of the “Logistic City” chair at the Gustave-Eiffel University. For the specialist, the new constraints on city centers will make it possible to slowly develop the role of the river. But it remains, today, marginal: “the postponement will be played above all in the electrification of vehicle fleets”.
At the confluence of the Rhône and the Saône, the environmentalist majority however imagines carrying out the experiment a little further and even on another ground: in January, the metropolis announced the establishment of a river shuttle linking the Vaise district at the Saint-Nizier church by 2025, to complete the public transport offer. “Rivers are at the origin of urban centres. But in a few decades, we have done everything to ensure that the inhabitants are disconnected from it, believes Jean-Charles Kohlhaas. The simple fact of finding ships in the city center is an opportunity to begin to remedy this. »