EU goals for intermodal freight transport "simply unrealistic", says the report of ECA

EU goals for intermodal freight transport "simply unrealistic", says the report of ECA

Efforts to shift freight from road to other modes of transport have been ineffective due to regulatory and infrastructure barriers, according to a report published by the European Court of Auditors. The report highlights the need for a dedicated EU strategy for intermodal freight transport, as well as new legislative measures to address capacity management and interoperability issues.

The European Court of Auditors (ECA) has published a report stating that intermodal freight transport still has a long way to go before it can compete with trucks and lorries. The report finds that trains and barges currently cannot compete on equal grounds with trucks and lorries, and the infrastructure network is not yet fit for intermodal transport. According to the report, the share of road transport in the EU's freight transport is still increasing, with around 77% of freight still transported by road. While road transport is the most flexible and often the fastest and cheapest way to deliver goods, lorries are major polluters. A shift away from the road and increased use of other modes of transport, such as rail or inland waterways, can therefore play a key role in greening freight transport.

The report also highlights the fact that some EU regulations make intermodal transport less attractive. For example, the current version of the Combined Transport Directive is outdated and ineffective, requiring a paper document stamped by rail or port authorities throughout the journey instead of a digitalized workflow. Capacity management and interoperability are likely to remain problematic in the absence of new legislative measures.

The ECA report concludes that the lack of information on intermodal terminal and network capacities also prevents shippers and logistics operators from offering good intermodal transport solutions to their customers. The proposed revision of the TEN-T regulation has the potential to improve the situation, but the EU freight transport network is simply not yet fit for intermodality, the auditors found. The report highlights that the EU provided over €1.1 billion to support intermodality projects between 2014 and 2020, but efforts to move freight off the roads have not been effective in removing the regulatory and infrastructure barriers that penalize other modes of transport. 

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