Rail Terminal Port of Rotterdam Photo 42367707 © MartinBergsma Dreamstime.com
© MartinBergsma

Aspirations to double Europe’s intermodal market share by 2050 have been dealt a major blow by the European Court of Auditors, which described the plan as “unrealistic”.

In a report yesterday, the court pointed to “serious deficiencies” surrounding funding, harmonisation of union-wide regulations, lack of visibility on existing and required rail infrastructure and the dominance of road freight.

It said: “We found the EC did not have a dedicated EU strategy on intermodality. It was, instead, part of a broader strategy on greening freight transport.”

It added that targets aimed at increasing the share of sustainable modes of transport were ” unrealistic, as the underlying assumptions were not based on robust simulations of how much modal shift could actually be achieved”.

And the lack of a “dedicated strategy on intermodality” resulted in inaccurate assessments of what was viable, it said.

As examples, it noted a 2011 assessment that “assumed” a 1,500-metre train would be allowed on the planned new Trans-European Transport Network (Ten-T), despite the 740-metre limit, as well as a 2020 strategy paper’s failure to specify where it would find a €100bn shortfall in costs.

And it continued: “Moreover, the commission’s estimates of the traffic volumes needed for rail and waterborne transport in order to achieve the targets were overly optimistic. In 2011, it estimated that rail freight would increase 60% between 2005 and 2030, and 87% by 2050. This forecast is unlikely to become a reality in the absence of new policies, given that rail freight traffic grew merely 8% between 2010 and 2019.”

Compounding the assessment, the court added that targets set at EU level had not been agreed with member states, or broken down into “enforceable targets at national or corridor levels”.

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