Research in Action - now online

27 May 2021 - Published by Deirdre Buist
The SURFLOGH project is now in the process of producing the final case studies. To this end, Scottish partners Jonathan Cowie (Edinburgh Napier University) and Keith Fisken (SEStran) are carrying out the interview programme that will produce improved insights into success or fail factors regarding sustainable urban freight logistics.

As pandemic limitations are still in place for most, online interviews were set up with the managing partners in each of the pilot projects to draw out the critical elements behind the success (or otherwise) of each pilot. Through these interviews our researchers are identifying the key aspects that lead to the effective establishment and operation of lucrative sustainable urban freight logistics hubs.

Well grounded & balanced overview

While a profitable business case is the goal, there is an underlying understanding amongst the SURFLOGH partners that ‘fear of failure’ should not limit the learning experience. In the words of Jonathan: “We will not simply ‘smudge’ things to appear more ‘successful’ with the pilots, but rather accept the realities we are facing - no compromises. This is essential to learning from such trials - in some respects  these insights  are more valuable than those associated with success. Taken together, all results produce a well-grounded and balanced overview of the key factors behind establishing, operating and expanding green city logistics. “


Benefits of established cooperation

Running the primary research interviews with partners online is a new and interesting experience for Dr Cowie. “It’s not ideal but the interview programme is going very well. Call me old fashioned(!), but direct personal contact is important with such research. However, the well-established working relationships, project meetings and associated  site visits to the actual pilots prior to the Covid-19 lockdown measures have formed a solid basis. We can now reap the benefits of this strong cooperation. “

Policies as driver

“One particular aspect coming to light from the interviews is that of policy,” says Keith Fisken. “This is clearly demonstrated by Groningen’s Green Logisitics Covenant, which was signed by local businesses and major stakeholders in 2018. This has been a driver for the local authority for more green orientated logistics measures in the city. Moreover, whilst public acceptability is fundamental for the successful introduction of a congestion charge, ‘business acceptability’ with regard to similar measures associated with urban logistics is equally important.”

Common underlying themes

The case studies (soon to be published on the SURFLOGH website) give an overview of each pilot and the local circumstances while  identifying key factors for success (or otherwise). Dr Cowie adds: “The interview outcomes are interesting. We recognize some common underlying themes regarding the success factors behind the pilots, but we also signal the emergence of some interesting context-specific differences.  Whilst there are mutual factors to consider, there is no standardized or universal approach to green urban logistics”.


For now, Surflogh’s Research in Action continues on the web. Of course, we’ll keep you updated on the final results.