ESC highlights the needs of combined transport at the FERRMED conference

The recent FERRMED conference in Brussels brought together industry experts, policymakers, and transport stakeholders to examine the complexities of the EU freight transport system and discuss strategies for optimising modal shift. ESC Secretary General Godfried Smit emphasised the crucial role of combined transport in achieving the EU’s ambitious decarbonization goals in his address.

Godfried highlighted the importance of embracing combined transport, a combination of rail and inland waterway transport, to meet the EU’s environmental targets. “Unfortunately,” he observed, “the share of rail and barge transport has stagnated in recent years. We need to understand why shippers are not shifting to combined transport in larger numbers.”

The FERRMED study, Godfried pointed out, sheds light on the need for strategic infrastructure investments, particularly in terminals, to address bottlenecks and enhance the overall reliability and capacity of rail transport. He welcomed the Commission’s initiative to propose new capacity measures, underlining the societal significance of freight transport.

Recognising the time required to develop new capacity or restructure existing terminals, Godfried Smit urged for immediate measures to optimise the use of available capacity and implement more efficient transport concepts. He underlined the importance of cost-effectiveness, calling upon the EU and Member States to create an attractive playing field for combined transport adoption.

The ESC Secretary General voiced concerns about the complexity of the combined transport directive, particularly the requirement to prove eligibility for benefits. He advocated for simplified procedures to encourage uptake, considering that shifting to another mode is a significant step for shippers. Additionally, he expressed reservations about the calculation of external costs and the obligation to use eFTI, which could hamper the desired growth of combined transport.

Godfried stressed that combined transport encompasses not only rail but also Short Sea Shipping (SSS) and inland barge transport. He encouraged rail and barge operators to embrace the development of high-capacity trucks in the EU, enabling multimodal transport and fostering collaboration among different transport modes.

In his concluding remarks, Godfried emphasised the shared responsibility of stakeholders in promoting multimodal transportation. “We must work together to succeed. I am confident that the environment can count on many of you!”

The FERRMED conference served as a valuable platform for exploring innovative solutions and strategies to optimise modal shift and enhance the sustainability of EU freight transport.