Urban -Consolidation Centre in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, Spain

Context of Transport Climate Action

In recent years an increasing number of commercial vehicles have been entering the city centre of L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, a Spanish city just south of Barcelona. The transportation situation in the inner city  is characterized by low utilization of vehicle capacity, high operational costs in the last mile of distribution, severe traffic congestion and excessive greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).

In the greater metropolitan area of Barcelona there is a general lack of clear and uniform regulation which would favour efficient urban delivery strategies. To improve the performance of urban freight deliveries in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, DHL’s ‘ Supply Chain Spain’ (DHL SC Spain) set up an urban consolidation centre (UCC) to reduce the number of vehicles entering the defined inner urban area (or last- mile distribution area) while maintaining required service levels. The shipment consolidation achieved by the UCC consisted of the delivery loads of several carriers to retailers located in this commercial city centre area.


The concept involved setting up an urban -consolidation centre (UCC) to alleviate the negative impacts caused by last-mile delivery in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat. The pilot project involved several stakeholders. DHL SC Spain was involved as the UCC manager, while CENIT, the Centre for Innovation in Transport, provided support in the preparation and design phase. The city council of L’Hospitalet acted as the main promoter of the initiative, especially through the city traders’ association. Furthermore, some small retail businesses located in the city centre volunteered to participate in the demonstration phase. The most challenging and time-consuming task in the pilot project was enrolment of small retailers in the demonstration phase.

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Initially an analysis was made of distribution demand in the area, previous experiences of UCC deployment were reviewed and stakeholders were consulted. Based on these preparation results, the partners developed a hybrid Urban Consolidation Centre:  distribution to small city-centre retailers was combined with services to large demand institutions such as a hospital, university or shopping mall.

An important next step was to organize effective dialogue with local retailers. They proved difficult to enroll in the project, due to the fact that distribution logistics were not considered to be key to their businesses and transport costs were, in most cases, calculated as part of the total procurement cost of goods.

The next phase was the pilot project demonstration, which began on the 18th of February and finished on the 31st of May 2013, with a total of approximately 350,000 packages moved. May proved to be the most active month, as new participant retailers were added to the demonstration, having taken some time to switch their deliveries to the UCC.

This pilot project was developed as part of Straightsol, an EU-funded project, comprising seven innovative, cutting- edge urban freight demonstrations.


  • Transport costs in urban delivery are reduced by approximately 25%. This is however outweighed by the additional handling costs of the terminal, or UCC. Currently the use of UCCs has yet to be proven  commercially viable.
  • Kilometres covered in distribution terms are reduced proportionally to transport costs. This results in a reduction of GHG emissions of 25% in all city transport vehicles.

Potential for scaling up

Bundling of cargo in an urban consolidation center can be a good solution for alleviating pressure on inner cities. Bundling concepts are being developed throughout Europe.

Important aspects that need to be taken into account when developing a consolidation center:

  • Create flexibility and synergy by mixing different types of shipments;
  • Involve municipalities in essential communication with retailers and for information dissemination;
  • The business model needs revenue streams to compensate costs.

Selected references





Spain, L'Hospitalet de Llobregat






Spain, Europe, mitigation, freight, technology, policy, partnership


DHL, CENIT, Ajuntament de L’Hospitalet


Isabel Ferrando, Isabel.Ferrando@dhl.com