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MSCA-COFUND-CLEAR-Doc - PhD Position #CD22-05: Combining rail and autonomous vehicles in cities for first/last mile delivery


Job Information

Université Gustave Eiffel
Research Field
Mathematics » Discrete mathematics
Mathematics » Algorithms
Mathematics » Applied mathematics
Computer science
Computer science » Modelling tools
Computer science » Programming
Researcher Profile
First Stage Researcher (R1)
Application Deadline
Type of Contract
Job Status
Hours Per Week
Is the job funded through the EU Research Framework Programme?
H2020 / Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions COFUND
Marie Curie Grant Agreement Number
Is the Job related to staff position within a Research Infrastructure?

Offer Description


Environmental issues have never been more critical, imposing a strong desire to change consumption and mobility practices to reduce our environmental impact (Asghari et al., 2021). In the context of urban densification and the development of e-commerce, the demand for freight transport has increased significantly in recent years (Cleophas et al., 2019). The European Environment Agency's 2020 study shows that between 2000 and 2017, the demand for passenger transport increased by 17% and freight transport by 24%. It has become crucial today to promote urban rail transport, including freight and passengers, because of its low environmental impact. However, the latter has a disadvantage: it has to be connected to other modes to ensure first/last mile delivery. The autonomous vehicle seems promising for this role, provided its performance and autonomy (Lin et al., 2014).

In this thesis, we consider the integration of the freight component in the urban passenger rail transport system, which has already been the subject of work showing its feasibility and potential (Behiri et al., 2018; Behiri et al., 2022). This thesis aims to consider freight's complete transportation process when integrated into the urban passenger rail transport system. Therefore, we propose using autonomous vehicles as a complementary mode to expand rail transport capacity to achieve the first/last mile delivery. To our knowledge, the literature has not addressed the problem of the optimisation of freight delivery time with this bi-modal urban transportation system.

Literature related works:

Interest in sharing freight and passenger transport has increased over the past five years, offering a wide range of work (Cavallaro & Nocera, 2021). Among these works, many report single or multi-city scale implementations to demonstrate feasibility. Li et al. (2021) investigated the feasibility of using the urban rail mode for freight through two experiments of lines connecting the airport to the city centre, including one in Toronto and the other in Beijing. Moreover, the literature review shows a real deficit in quantitative methods for integrating freight and passenger transport (Chung, 2021).

Regarding the use of autonomous vehicles for the last mile delivery, which is studied in many cases as a vehicle routing problem, we can refer to (Montoya et al., 2015). Also, Agnusdei et al. (2022) state that autonomous delivery vehicles facilitate customer deliveries. In addition, we can mention the work of Mourad et al. (2021), who addressed the problem of goods delivery by robots from nodes served by passenger shuttles also used for goods.

The objective of the thesis:

The first contribution concerns the modelling of the transport solution integrating the second mode of autonomous vehicles to minimise the travelling time of the parcels in the bi-modal system composed of the rail transport first and then the autonomous vehicles for the last mile delivery. We will propose a mathematical model to formalise the joint optimisation problem considering the freight-passenger mutualising rail transport corresponding to the FRTSP (Freight-Rail-Transportation-Scheduling-Problem) (Behiri et al., 2018) and the VRP induced by the rounds of the autonomous vehicles generating several VRPs (Vehicle Routing Problem). Indeed, synchronising goods flow between the two modes implies considering both problems holistically, minimising total travel time - including the transhipment. The second contribution is to validate the solutions provided by the previous analytical model in an uncertain context to consider disturbances such as rail incidents or traffic conditions for the VRP. The coupling should allow the development of a hybrid method to determine a robust solution.


1- Review the literature to identify the works dealing with the last mile on the one hand and the optimisation/simulation coupling for rail and road transport problems on the other hand.

2- Propose a model based on mathematical programming to solve the freight-forwarding problem by considering the transhipment between the FRTSP and the VRP.

3- Propose a hybrid approach to evaluate the performance of the solutions provided by the mathematical model in a fluctuating environment to take into account changes in FRTSP travel times (incidents) or VRP travel times (traffic).


Agence Européenne d’Environnement, 2020.

G.P. Agnusdei, M.G. Gnoni, F. Sgarbossa, K. Govindann, 2022. Challenges and perspectives of the Industry 4.0 technologies within the last-mile and first-mile reverse logistics: A systematic literature review. Research in Transportation Business & Management, 100896.

M. Asghari, S. M. J. Mirzapour Al-e-hashem, 2021. Green vehicle routing problem: A state-of-the-art review, International Journal of Production Economics, Vol 231, 107899.

W. Behiri, S. Belmokhtar-Berraf, C. Chu, 2018. Urban freight transport using passenger rail network: Scientific issues and quantitative analysis. Transportation Research Part E: Logistics and Transportation Review, Vol 115, 227-245.

W. Behiri, S. Belmokhtar-Berraf, C. Chu, 2022. A robust ant colony metaheuristic for urban freight transport scheduling using passenger rail network. Expert Systems with Applications, 118906.

F. Cavallaro, S. Nocera, 2021. Integration of passenger and freight transport: A concept-centric literature review, Research in Transportation Business & Management.

S. H. Chung, 2021. Applications of smart technologies in logistics and transport: A review. Transportation Research Part E: Logistics and Transportation Review, Vol 153, 102455.

C. Cleophas, C. Cottrill, J. Fabian Ehmke, K. Tierney, 2019. Collaborative urban transportation: Recent advances in theory and practice, European Journal of Operational Research, Vol 273(3), 801-816.

Z. Li, A. Shalaby, M.J. Roorda, B. Mao, 2021. Urban rail service design for collaborative passenger and freight transport. Transportation Research Part E: Logistics and Transportation Review, Vol 147, 102205.

C. Lin, K.L., Choy, G. T. S., Ho, S. H., Chung, H. Y., Lam, 2014. Survey of green vehicle routing problem: Past and future trends. Expert Systems with Applications, Vol 41, 1118–1138.

J.R, Montoya-Torres, J., López Franco, S., Nieto Isaza, H., Felizzola Jiménez, N., Herazo-Padilla, 2015, A literature review on the vehicle routing problem with multiple depots. Computers & Industrial Engineering, Vol 79, 115-129.

A. Mourad, J. Puchinger, T. Van Woensel, 2021. Integrating autonomous delivery service into a passenger transportation system. International Journal of Production Research, Vol 59(7), 2116-2139.


Research Field
Computer science
Education Level
Bachelor Degree or equivalent
  • At the time of the deadline, applicants must be in possession or finalizing their Master’s degree or equivalent/postgraduate degree.
  • At the time of recruitment, applicants must be in possession of their Master’s degree or equivalent/postgraduate degree which would formally entitle to embark on a doctorate.

Additional Information

  • High-quality doctoral training rewarded by a PhD degree, delivered by Université Gustave Eiffel
  • Access to cutting-edge infrastructures for research & innovation.
  • Appointment for a period of 36 months based on a salary of 2 700 € (gross salary per month).
  • Job contract under the French labour legislation in force, respecting health and safety, and social security: 35 hours per week contract, 25 days of annual leave per year.
  • International mobility will be mandatory
  • An international environment supported by the adherence to the European Charter & Code.
  • Access to dedicated CLEAR-Doc trainings with a strong interdisciplinary focus, together with a Career development Plan.
Eligibility criteria

Applicants must fulfil the following eligibility criteria:

  • At the time of the deadline, applicants must be in possession or finalizing their Master’s degree or equivalent/postgraduate degree.
  • At the time of recruitment, applicants must be in possession of their Master’s degree or equivalent/postgraduate degree which would formally entitle to embark on a doctorate.
  • At the time of the deadline, applicants must be in the first four years (full-time equivalent research experience) of their research career (career breaks excluded) and not yet been awarded a doctoral degree. Career breaks refer to periods of time where the candidate was not active in research, regardless of his/her employment status (sick leave, maternity leave etc). Short stays such as holidays and/or compulsory national service are not taken into account.
  • At the time of the deadline, applicants must fulfil the transnational mobility rule: incoming applicants must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in France for more than 12 months in the 3 previous years.

One application per call per year is allowed.

Applicants must be available full-time to start the programme on schedule (November 1st 2023).

Application rules are enforced by the French doctoral system which specifies a standard duration of 3 years for a full-time PhD together with the MSCA standards and the OTM-R European rules as follows.

Citizens of any nationality may apply to the programme.

There is no age limit.

Selection process

Please refer to the Guide for Applicants available on the CLEAR-Doc website.

Additional comments
  • The First step before applying is contacting the PhD supervisor. You will not be able to apply without an acceptation letter from the PhD supervisor.
  • International Mobility: Please contact the PhD supervisor for any additional detail on job offer and the international Mobility
  • Please contact the PhD supervisor for any additional detail on job offer.
  • There are no restrictions concerning the age, gender or nationality of the candidates. Applicants with career breaks or variations in the chronological sequence of their career, with mobility experience or with interdisciplinary background or private sector experience are welcome to apply.
  • Support service is available during every step of the application process by email:
Website for additional job details

Work Location(s)

Number of offers available
Université Gustave Eiffel
Île de France
Postal Code
5, Boulevard Descartes


5, Boulevard Descartes
Postal Code