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MEMO/09/443

Brussels, 9 October 2009

Marco Polo 2003-10 - Commission builds on the success of Marco Polo programme

Reducing congestion

Europe’s road network suffers from ever-increasing congestion, increasing the time lost by road users and worsening environmental pollution. Long-distance freight, particularly international freight traffic, is a major contributor to this congestion.

Europe’s road system has borne the brunt of increasing freight traffic mainly because of the failure of alternative modes – rail and shipping – to keep pace with rising demand and to contribute to an integrated transport solution.

What Europe really needs – and is working towards – is a sustainable transport system that shifts freight off the roads onto more environmentally friendly transport modes.

The second Marco Polo programme is an initiative of the European Union which is running from 2007 to 2013. It aims to shift or avoid a substantial part of the expected increase in international freight traffic, estimated at 20 billion tonne-kilometres per year, from Europe’s roads onto short-sea shipping, rail and inland waterway transport.

Shifting freight off roads

Lorries are often the best means of transporting freight for first and final legs of deliveries, but they are also costly – both in economic and environmental terms – over long distances. Within the context of the Commission’s 2001 White Paper on transport and its 2006 mid-term review, the second Marco Polo programme seeks to reduce road congestion by shifting or avoiding the yearly increases in international freight traffic from roads onto short-sea shipping, rail and inland waterway transport.

Launched in December 2006, with a budget of €450 million for the period 2007/2013 (participation of third countries led to an increase of the budget), Marco Polo will contribute to an efficient and sustainable transport system by backing commercial undertakings which set up intermodal – rail, sea and road – freight transport services.

Support will enable firms to offer more environmentally sustainable services in international freight transport markets. The emphasis is on services, as Marco Polo will not support research projects or the development of core infrastructure.

Main types of action

Marco Polo support may be given for three main types of actions:

1.1 Modal shift actions

The aim is to provide aid to start up services. Projects should be robust, but not necessarily innovative: aiming simply to shift freight off the road.

  • Maximum subsidy of €2 per 500 tonne-km shifted off the road

  • Minimum threshold of 60 million tonne-km shifted every year over the total length of each contract

  • Subsidy rate up to 35% of eligible costs

  • Ancillary infrastructure costs up to 20% of total eligible costs

  • Subsidy available for up to three years

  • Support must not distort competition unduly

  • Project must be viable after subsidy ends

1.2 Catalyst actions

The aim is to overcome structural barriers in the market. Projects should be highly innovative and aim to achieve a real breakthrough.

  • Maximum subsidy of €2 per 500 tonne-km shifted off the road

  • Minimum threshold of 30 million tonne-km shifted every year over the total length of each contract

  • Subsidy rate up to 35% of eligible costs

  • Ancillary infrastructure costs up to 20% of total eligible costs

  • Subsidy available for up to five years, with a minimum of three years

  • Project must publish results

  • Mid-term review of each project

  • Political support may be given by the European Commission if required by a project

  • Support must not distort competition unduly

  • Project must be viable after subsidy ends

1.3 Common learning actions

The aim is to improve cooperation and the sharing of know-how. Objective is mutual training to help cope with an increasingly complex transport and logistics market.

  • Minimum subsidy threshold €250,000

  • Subsidy rate up to 50% of eligible costs

  • Subsidy available for up to two years, with an extension possibility of two additional years

  • Project must publish results

1.4 Motorways of the Sea

The aim is to shift freight from the road to short sea shipping or a combination of short sea shipping with other transport modes.

  • Maximum subsidy of €2 per 500 tonne-km shifted off the road

  • Minimum threshold of 200 million tonne-km shifted every year over the total length of each contract

  • Subsidy rate up to 35% of eligible costs

  • Ancillary infrastructure costs up to 20 % of total eligible costs

  • Subsidy available for up to five years, with a minimum of three years

  • Support must not distort competition unduly

  • Project must be viable after subsidy ends

1.5 Traffic avoidance actions

The aim is to integrate transport into production logistics to avoid a large percentage of freight transport by road.

  • Maximum subsidy of €2 per 500 tonne-km shifted off road

  • Minimum threshold of 60 million tonne-km avoided every year over the total length of each contract

  • Subsidy rate up to 35 % of eligible costs

  • Ancillary infrastructure costs up to 20 % of total eligible costs

  • Subsidy available for up to five years, with a minimum of three years

  • Support must not distort competition unduly

  • Project must be viable after subsidy ends

Who can participate?

Marco Polo support is open to commercial undertakings only.

Participants may come from any EU Member State, or from ‘close third countries’. These are EEA and EFTA members, candidate countries for EU accession, and Mediterranean partner states.

Funding from the EU budget is available to participants from EU Member States. In addition, participants from candidate countries and from EEA and EFTA members may also receive EU funding where specific agreements are in place.

Projects must demonstrate a European dimension to be eligible for support. They should cover an international route, involving EU territory and that of ‘close third countries’.

Key points for applicants

Proposals

Proposals can only be submitted in response to an annual call announced in the EU’s Official Journal. The Marco Polo website gives indicative dates for forthcoming calls and full information.

Routes used for calculating subsidy

Subsidy calculations are always based on the route the truck would have taken, if the freight had not been shifted to an alternative mode of transport (ship, rail or a combination of ship and rail).

Participation and funding

While commercial undertakings from both EU Member States and ‘close third countries’ are eligible to participate, only costs arising on the territory of EU Member States or countries which have concluded specific agreements with the EU are eligible for Marco Polo funding. Therefore, in calculating the subsidy for each project, only the parts of the route in countries eligible for funding can be used. This also applies in calculating the environmental benefit of the modal shift. Each call will specify the eligible countries.

Projects eligible for support

Only projects concerning freight transport services may be supported by the Marco Polo programme. Infrastructure projects, RTD and study projects are not eligible for support.

Participation by public authorities

Only commercial undertakings are eligible to participate, but administrations may be up to 100% owners of participating commercial undertakings.

Legal base of Marco Polo

The legal base of the Marco Polo programme, which is now amended, is Regulation (EC) No 1692/2006, of 24 October 2006 and published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJ L 328, 24.11.2006, p.1).


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