The EU Commission responded swiftly to the European Court of Auditors’ report on intermodal transport and the share of rail freight. The report, which provided worrisome findings, might illustrate the situation as overly dramatic according to UIRR; however, it draws some conclusions worth the attention. The Commission accepted some of its points but will leave half of them unaddressed.

The ECA report concerned the rail freight market share and the problems relating to intermodality, which is not growing at a desirable pace. Specifically, the auditors stressed that “doubling the rail freight market’s share by 2050 is simply unrealistic and that the EU freight transport network is simply not yet fit for intermodality”.

UIRR welcomed the report’s findings but highlighted that reaching the 2050 modal split goals is still feasible, given that certain conditions are in place. UIRR has compiled another report concerning these prerequisites. Rail freight association ERFA also welcomed the report, primarily focusing on capacity management, allocation of train paths, and the train drivers’ directive to reduce the barrier created by language requirements.

On the other hand, the EU Commission accepted the ECA points on better data collection and utilisation, improved international capacity management, increased combined transport share in intermodal operations and coordinated assessment with Member States on intermodal needs and development.

What is in, and what’s left out?

The auditors shared eight improvement points in their report ranging from 1a to 4b. In brief, the Commission will consider points 1c, 2a, 2b and 3 and leave out points 1a, 1b, 4a and 4b. But what are those points all about? You can find more information in the Commission’s document. An explanatory list also follows below.

Acceptance points

The EU Commission accepts point 1c to “improve the collection of national data on intermodal freight transport, in collaboration with EUROSTAT and the national statistical offices, notably by assessing the need for data provision requirements to be included in a legislative act”.

It also accepts points 2a and 2b to implement regulatory changes targeting “existing regulatory obstacles so that intermodal transport can be a competitive alternative to road-only transport” and to “enlarge the scope of combined transport within intermodal transport and road-only transport”. These revisions aim at reducing the diversity of implementation by Member states.

Finally, it accepts point 3 to lay the groundwork for a coordinated assessment with the Member States of the intermodal infrastructure needs, including terminals. The Commission aims to develop guidelines for Member States within one year of the TEN-T regulation revision.

Declined points

Points 1a, 1b, 4a and 4b that the Commission did not accept concern targets regarding the modal share along the Core Network Corridors and the assessment of the modal shift potential in cost-benefit analyses for EU-funded projects, respectively.

In particular, points 1a and 1b referred to setting “specific targets per Core Network Corridor regarding the modal share of freight traffic flows, including intermodal flows in close coordination with the Member States” and “requiring the European Coordinators to report on the achievement of these targets and identify the investment needed to comply with them”.

Additionally, points 4a and 4b focused on stimulating the modal shift with EU-funded projects. Point 4a requested the Commission to “require beneficiaries of projects funded by CEF and targeting a modal shift to include in the cost-benefit analysis […] a quantified estimate of the project’s potential to generate modal shift [..]”. At the same time, with point 4b, the auditors asked for the designation of managing authorities and monitoring committees for shared management projects.

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