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STATUS: Complete YEAR: 2014 TOPIC AREA: Sustainability, energy, and health CENTER: MetroFreight

Logistics Spatial Patterns in Paris: The Rise of the Paris Basin as a Logistics Megaregion

Project Summary

For the purposes of this study we used the SIRENE database held by the French National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE). This database provides information about the firms present in each municipality, according to their category in the European NACE classification. We could obtain these data for 2000 and 2012. The next stage was to conduct a number of interviews with managers working in logistical hubs 129 in the parcel delivery sector (e.g. Chronopost, UPS, FedEx, and Colizen) or warehousing. These interviews confirmed that the warehouses were no longer simply used for storage but function as logistics platforms, with increasingly diversified activities which add value.

The way the distribution of spaces that are specialized in logistics warehousing has changed allows us to glimpse a specific type of multi-cluster metropolis in the case of Paris. On the one hand it is made up of low density clusters located in the inner suburban ring, and on the other hand it is spreading outwards by generating new suburban clusters which cause the conurbation to expand. What is occurring is both a process by which the center of the metropolis is expanding as a result of the contiguity of specialized logistics clusters and the emergence of new clusters in the outskirts. The Paris metropolis is characterized by the outward spread of logistics activities and the major suburban clusters which structure the Ile-de-France. This is one of the spatial dynamics which “traditionally” affects metropolises: centrifugal forces at the local level. But these centrifugal forces do not on their own, fully characterize the metropolises.

Logistics sprawl to some extent challenges the traditional picture of metropolitan space. When one thinks of the position of Paris in a global network one naturally considers its megaregional hinterland, i.e. whether Orleans, Tours, Rouen or Amiens, and at another scale Chartres, Beauvais or Compiegne, have a specific position in this network. The spatial organization that is apparent extends beyond the conurbation or even the urban region, which encourages us to engage more in a reticular analysis of the Paris metropolis. The strength of functional analysis of an area is that it makes it possible to consider both the spatial dimensional and the reticular dimension of a given activity. The spatial structure of the logistical system in the Paris metropolis is observed through the location of logistics activities. However, these belong to networks which extend beyond the administrative boundaries of the region and encourage us to consider the megaregional scale, that of the Paris basin. The analyses demonstrate the movement of a logistical “front” on the edges of Ile-de-France. Consequently, we can ask ourselves if this sprawl does not extend beyond the regional boundaries, reflecting a reticular organization of logistical activities at the macro-regional, or megaregional, scale of the Paris basin. This space is essentially dominated by the capital region (Ile-de-France) which accounts for half of the total population. The Centre region (12%) is in second-place ahead of the Picardie region which has 9% of the total. This disproportional distribution of population also applies to jobs. However, if we look at the specialization of the logistics clusters in the Paris basin, the distribution is less disproportional. If we consider again the proportion of all the places of business that consist of warehousing facilities we can attempt to reveal zones where there is a great deal of logistics activity. In other words, we can highlight those areas which are specialized in warehousing logistics.

In conclusion, this research has documented a major rise in the number of warehousing and logistics facilities since the beginning of the 2000s in the Paris region and the Paris basin. In terms of its spatial characteristics, this growth illustrates both centrifugal processes, from the urban core to the suburban and ex urban areas of the region, and centripetal processes, from the margins of the Parisian basin to the edges of the Paris region. The logistics system is a global distribution process from international supply chains to urban supply chains. In this process, freight hubs serve as switches connecting these two scales of the logistics system. This role explains part of the locational patterns of logistics and warehousing facilities in Paris, both at the metropolitan scale of the Ile-de-France region and at the megaregional scale of the Paris basin. Our analyses emphasize the existence of a spatial scale that is little recognized but is key to the understanding of the logistics system: the megaregional scale. We do not wish to state that the Paris basin is a megaregion in the fullest sense of the term, as identified by recent academic studies. Contrary to this research work, our approach was limited to the study of warehousing establishments, and additional analyses about the socio-economic indicators for the Paris basin are needed. However, by identifying a megaregional logistics system, in between an international or national system and an urban one, we are led to suggest two further areas of investigation that could be of interest for the study of the 381 spatial patterns that affect freight and logistics. One relates to planning and policies. The megaregional scale could well be an appropriate scale for public policies related to freight, as it could promote a more global view on the part of policy-makers. This supra-institutional approach could be helpful when it is necessary to select freight projects and make investment decisions or when economic development strategies based on logistics activities must be defined. A second direction for research as far as the Paris logistics megaregion is concerned is a comparison with other European megaregions. Analyses of warehouses and logistics activities in the main metropolitan areas of Europe and their regional surroundings could help draw more valid conclusions about the role of the megaregional scale in the logistics and supply chain systems of Europe.


Laetitia Dablanc
Director of Research, IFSTTAR, French Institute of Science and Technology for Transport, Development and Networks - University of Paris-East
14-20 boulevard Newton, Cite Descartes
Marne la Vallee cedex 2, 77447
[email protected]