European Commission - Report on Transport

Dutch barge

Inland waterway transport plays an important role for the transport of goods in Europe. More than 35.000 kilometres of waterways connect hundreds of cities and industrial regions. While 18 out of 25 Member States have inland waterways, 10 of which have an interconnected waterway network, the modal share of river transport accounts for 7% of the total inland transport in the European Union.

In 2003, 125 billion ton-kilometres of freight were transported by inland waterways in the Union. Fluvial transport plays a vital role in transport through the European North-west. In the hinterland of the largest seaports of the EU, the modal share of inland waterway transport can reach up to 43%.

Together with rail and short sea shipping, inland waterway transport can contribute more to rebalancing the different transport modes, as recommended by the White Paper on the European transport policy for 2010.

Main objectives of the European Commission

In the context of an entirely deregulated inland navigation market since 1 January 2000 (Directive 96/75/EC), the European Commission aims to promote and strengthen the competitive position of the inland waterway transport in the transport system, and to facilitate its integration into the intermodal logistic chain. By creating favourable conditions for the further development of the sector, the Commission wants to encourage companies to use this mode of transport.

To this end, inland navigation also needs an effective infrastructure. The removal of obstacles and bottlenecks in the inland waterway network has to form part of the trans-European transport networks policy. In addition, the Commission aims at developing the perspective of a harmonised legal framework for inland navigation in Europe.

Trans European Networks

The idea of Trans-European Networks (TEN in the EU jargon) emerged by the end of the 1980s in conjunction with the proposed Single Market. It made little sense to talk of a big market, with freedom of movement within it for goods, persons and services, unless the various regions and national networks making up that market were properly linked by modern and efficient infrastructure.

The construction of Trans-European Networks is also an important element for economic growth and the creation of employment

The Treaty establishing the European Union provides a sound legal basis for the TENs. Under the terms of Chapter XV of the Treaty (Articles 154, 155 and 156), the European Union must aim to promote the development of Trans -European Networks as a key element for the creation of the Internal Market and the reinforcement of Economic and Social Cohesion. This development includes the interconnection and interoperability of national networks as well as access to such networks.

According with these objectives, the Community is developing guidelines covering the objectives, priorities, identification of projects of common interest and broad lines of measures for the three sectors concerned (Transports, Energy and Telecommunications). The European Parliament and the Council approve these guidelines after consultation of the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions.

A large number of projects of common interest have benefited from financial support of the Community budget through the TEN-budget line as well as the Structural Funds and Cohesion Fund. The European Investment Bank (EIB) has also greatly contributed to the financing of these projects through loans.

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Barging on Inland Waterways project: A Barge pulled by a tug Barging on Inland Waterways. Pleasure Barging in France - the Napoleon
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