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Brussels promotes intermodal transport

15 November 2023
Brussels promotes intermodal transport

The European Commission, within the 'Greening Freight' package, seeks to stimulate the competitiveness of intermodal transport on short and medium distances, encouraging the transition from a road-only approach.

In the recently tabled proposal, Brussels suggests that member states take measures to support this initiative using uniform criteria. These measures could include state aid and aim to reduce total door-to-door combined transport costs by at least 10% over seven years.

Such measures cover legal, administrative, economic and fiscal aspects, such as subsidies, tariffs and charges, and the possibility of financing through the instruments available in the European Union.

Intermodal transport vs road transport.

Intermodal transport usually involves using railways or ships for most of the journey, while short sections are covered by trucks, connecting the loading points. This type of intermodal approach is estimated to significantly reduce the negative external costs associated with the exclusive use of roads by 40%.

Brussels's preference aims to impose on Member States the task of establishing a framework that favours combined transport, leaving the choice and design of the measures to be taken to the discretion of each country. This strategy would have an estimated cost of 7.5 billion euros between 2025 and 2050, to be borne by individual governments.

The Commission foresees that the direct benefits of this alternative could reach almost 20 billion euros, with 15.3 billion euros coming from the reduction of external costs associated with the exclusive use of roads, such as greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, noise, congestion and accidents. The remaining €4.3 billion comes from reduced administrative costs for businesses through digital platforms, in line with the electronic freight information regulation in force from 2025.

In addition, the European Commission recognises that promoting the multimodal approach implies specific support for investments in the technological modernisation of terminals and associated transport modes. In the case of containers, it is proposed that the journeys to collect or return an empty container to the depot should form an integral part of the intermodal operation, provided that the transport contract covers them.

Charting the way to sustainability

The negative impacts of road transport on society are not reflected in the price of the service. Therefore, for medium and long distances, where intermodality could be a viable alternative, road-only transport remains dominant, justifying the need for intervention to promote and accelerate the use of the intermodal approach.

According to European Commission data, the average external cost of rail and inland waterway transport is almost three times lower than that of heavy goods vehicles per tonne-kilometre. In detail, the cost is 0.013 euros for rail and 0.019 euros for inland navigation, compared to 0.042 euros for lorries. Brussels stresses that, as long as there is a difference in the internalisation of costs between the different modes of transport, the intermodal approach over medium and long distances will not be able to compete on price with road-only operations. In this respect, the Sustainable and Intelligent Mobility Strategy indicates that a comprehensive set of measures is required to achieve fair and efficient pricing across all modes of transport.

In the ordinary legislative procedure, the European Parliament and the Council will review the proposal.

The objective of the measures contained in "Greening Freight" is to mitigate environmental impacts by adopting greener practices, which for Sacytrans is fundamental to move towards a more sustainable and environmentally friendly freight transport system, helping to mitigate climate change and reduce the environmental footprint of logistics and transport globally.

Intermodal sustainability

For Sacytrans, transforming greener practices in the transport industry is fundamental to ensuring a cleaner and more sustainable tomorrow.

Join us in this journey towards a brighter, greener future; every km counts!


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