A Research Platform for Singapore

DHL Eco Line



The focus of 2016 DHL Innovation Challenge was Fair & Responsible Logistics – Creating Sustainable Logistics Solutions for the World of Tomorrow.

Fair & Responsible Logistics embraces the idea that doing well comes from doing good. By taking a business-oriented approach to fairness and responsibility, companies can focus on creating shared value, turning social and environmental challenges into sustainable, fair, and potentially profitable business models.

The goal is to participate in this competition and come up with original ideas and practical solutions that address and solve environmental and social challenges with new and innovative logistics-based business models.


By 2030, 60 percent of the world’s population will live in cities, up from about 50 percent today (1). Some automotive analysts have gone as far as predicting that on the existing trajectory, today’s 1.2 billion strong global car fleet could double by 2030(2). Unhealthy smog levels and traffic jams, with their chorus of horns and shouts, are routine irritations of urban lives, and things could get much worse. The world’s cities are facing an urgent set of challenges when it comes to ensuring that fundamental rite of urban living: getting around.

Hence, cities worldwide are pouring investment into public transit as a way to improve mobility for people. However the logistics in the cities still depend on privately owned road vehicles competing for space on streets and for parking contributing to urban congestion and pollution.

In Singapore, freight distribution accounts to 50% of the total vehicle emissions even though they account to only 17% of the total traffic volume (3). The last mile of logistics is also the most inefficient, unpredictable and expensive part of the entire chain comprising up to 28% of the total logistics cost. Singapore, like other megacities around the world has state of the art public transport facilities which very efficiently transport people across the island.

Hence, how can the last mile of logistics be improved by leveraging on the well-connected and ever growing network of public transport in megacities?


‘Eco line’ is a service for collection and distribution of parcels within the urban zones leveraging on existing public transport infrastructure (MRT trains - Mass Rapid Transit) for efficient, reliable and emission free transport of goods.

‘Eco line’ consists of a fleet of specially designed electric vehicles which collect mail and parcels during the day/peak hours and the same vehicles are used for the parcel/mail delivery in the night/off-peak hours.

‘Eco line’ brings in 3 key benefits:

  1. Zero local emissions (noise and gas).
  2. Reliable service as the public train schedules are more accurate and are not affected by traffic.
  3. Optimized parcel delivery and collection processes using the same vehicles.


Concept Details

A.Parcel Collection on Public Trains

Two ‘eco line’ vehicles are located in the last coach of all public trains. This makes it very easy for the passengers to locate them. This area on the trains can be colour branded by DHL for the ease of accessibility. 

The vehicles have a secured storage compartment and a screen interface which enable the passengers to post a parcel for delivery while ‘on the go’. The passengers can make posting of parcels a part of their daily journey to work, without making any detours.

Every vehicle can carry up to 32 parcels and additional mail. The maximum size of the parcels is restricted to ‘DHL standard box 5’ for the convenience of passengers. 

In Singapore, 66% of trips during peak hours are using public transport. They aim to achieve a peak hour public transport mode share of 75% by 2030 (4).

The increasing ridership of public transportation in Singapore makes ‘eco line’ an easy accessible service for the people. This is also a great business opportunity for DHL thus creating a win-win situation.


B.Parcel Delivery using Public Trains

The parcels collected during the day are consolidated at a fixed time after the evening peak hours, when the trains are less crowded.  The ‘eco line’ vehicles are reloaded for delivery operations at the consolidation centres.

The local delivery process starts after the evening peak hours (approx. 8 – 12pm), when most of the people would be back home. The vehicles travel from the consolidation centres to their last mile delivery zones using the public train network for the longer distances. Thereafter, the ‘eco line’ vehicles are driven by DHL delivery officers within the last mile zone for delivering parcels/mails to customer doorsteps, mailboxes or to the local Packstations.

Once the parcel delivery has been completed, the vehicles are driven to the closest train station before the train service ends. The empty vehicles are parked back in their designated space inside the train, ready for collecting parcels on the next day.


The ‘eco line’ concept is an essential solution for fair, responsible and efficient logistics in megacites and the mobility challenges of the future.

Summing up, ‘eco line’ is an environmentally responsible service, which would drastically reduce the urban transportation emissions. It could potentially reduce congestion due to the replacement of freight vehicles on roads and optimized operational hours.

‘Eco line’ service is a part of the public transport network, hence providing fair and easy access for everyone. Parcel posting now becomes an integrated experience of urban commuting. For the convenience and benefit of the delivery officers, they could operate without leaving their delivery zone which could be their residential neighbourhood at the same time. ‘ecoline’ thus makes their work more flexible, efficient and dynamic.

‘ecoline’ concept could be scaled for leveraging on different modes of public transport like Bus Rapid Transit(BRT), trams or streetcars etc. suiting distribution requirements of different megacities. In the near future, new technologies like autonomous or tele-operated driving could expand the ‘ecoline’ concept for aiding the megacities of tomorrow.