Press release: Improved EU state aid plans for intermodal transport 25/07/22

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Improved EU state aid plans for intermodal transport

The European Commission unveiled a revised plan for state aid to benefit sustainable modes of transport, mentioning as a beneficiary multimodal/intermodal transport1.  The Council Regulation should lay the groundwork for a detailed proposal concerning state aid to the sector – expected to be published by the end of 2022.  It will allow the Commission  at a later stage to adopt block exemption regulations for aid for rail, inland waterway and multimodal transport involving a limited risk of trade and competition distortions.

The spirit of the proposal should certainly be praised.  UIRR offers the following points for consideration prior to its adoption by the European Council:

  • Price signals are more powerful than state aid: correcting the historic imbalance of the regulatory framework of the different modes of transport cannot be foregone by offering state aid.  State aid should be extended with two motivations: (i) as a temporary compensatory measure for the time it takes to correct the price signals, and (ii) as a catalyser of modal shift by directing the attention of shippers to energy efficient and low carbon footprint Combined Transport services.
  • State aid should not be limited to financial transfers: valuable means of non-financial aid exist such as the legal equivalence between a Combined Transport operation and its corresponding road haulage, or the additional weight allowance of trucks performing Combined Transport road legs.

  • A clear link must be established between state aid and regulatory objectives, whereby state aid should only be reduced in proportion with the improvement in the regulatory framework.
  • Multimodal transport and intermodal transport are not synonyms: intermodal transport is based on the use of an intermodal loading unit (ILU), which is transhipped between the different modes using well established industrial scale techniques, while multimodal transport  simply means that two or more modes of transport collaborate on a single freight transport operation – where the understanding of a single transport operation and the transhipment are rather unclear terms.
UIRR looks forward to the amendment of the Combined Transport Directive, which should define the forms of financial and non-financial state aid - temporary compensatory measures -  that may be employed to accelerate modal shift and the transition to a robust, resource efficient and sustainable European freight transportation system.

“A simple and easy way to adopt a state aid measure for preferred sustainable freight transportation services are to be greeted.  Clear rules as well as a transparent and equal access to every beneficiary should be guaranteed.  The tools to deliver the modal shift needed to achieve our European objectives should be defined in the revised Combined Transport Directive.” – stated UIRR President Ralf-Charley Schultze.