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Delivered by bus

Pilot project "Rissen bringt’s" ends

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In the Hamburg suburb of Rissen on the Elbe, a pilot project that trialled parcel delivery by bus is coming to an end. Shortly before the end, the initiators were not yet satisfied, but the idea of combining public transport and freight transport continues to fascinate.

Minibus stops at the roadside, an elderly woman accepts a parcel from a bus driver


Between 28 October and 23 December, the "Rissen village coach" on the neighbourhood line 388 not only transported passengers, but also free shopping from local shops - including a pharmacy, a bookshop and a dry cleaner - on Tuesdays and Saturdays between 10 am and 1 pm. The "Rissen bringt's" project was supported by the Rissen neighbourhood school, the Bürgerverein Rissen e.V., the Gemeinschaft Rissener Kaufleute e.V. and the Else Voss Stiftung.

As part of the EU MOVE21 project, the aim of the project was to test the simultaneous transport of passengers and goods consignments by bus. The intention was to use the new service to utilise resources and capacities more efficiently, reduce climate and traffic pollution, promote social participation and inclusion and network local stakeholders. In the district of Altona, which includes Rissen, different solutions are to be combined in a modular fashion at various locations in order to gain insights for later regular implementation. The Living Lab in Hamburg is being supervised by a consortium that includes several Hamburg authorities and DB subsidiaries.

In order to reach as many potential users as possible with the pilot project, the entry hurdles were low: the goods were selected, ordered and paid for in-store, just like a traditional purchase. However, instead of transporting the purchased items home themselves, shoppers left their telephone number so that they could be contacted during the subsequent delivery process. The respective shop then informed employees of Verkehrsbetriebe Hamburg-Holstein (VHH), who took over the collection of the orders from the shops, sorted them and agreed the collection time with the buyers. The employees then delivered the order to the desired bus stop.

At the end of the project period, however, the results are sobering: in three months, only one order was placed. A VHH press spokeswoman said on enquiry that the initiators' hopes had not yet been fulfilled. However, they had tried to advertise the project with additional measures in the run-up to Christmas and to optimise the delivery process for tradespeople. She did not yet want to draw a final conclusion.

Disappointed hope?

At the launch of the "Rissen bringt's" project, Dr Melanie Leonhard, Hamburg's Senator for Economics and Innovation, spoke out in favour of smart, sustainable and integrated transport. The combination of public buses and goods logistics is "a surprisingly obvious and simple idea", which, in addition to its practicality, could ensure the supply of less mobile people. The idea of integrating local public transport into goods logistics has therefore not failed in principle - even if the pilot project has not yet been a resounding success.

Similar approaches are being researched in many places. In nearby Lauenburg, for example, a self-driving delivery robot called Laura was in use until 2021 as part of the TaBuLa project, which also travelled in a self-driving bus on its tours. A recently published study by researchers at KIT showed in a simulation whether a freight tram ("LogIKTram") could relieve urban traffic. In this project, however, local transport was used for onward carriage and not for deliveries to end customers (last mile). Instead, the freight tram would transport goods in bundles to a city hub, where they would then be transhipped and delivered from there using small vehicles.


Jan Klein & David O‘Neill