EU effort to shift traffic from road to water ‘has stalled’, say auditors

3 Mar 15
Attempts to shift the European Union’s freight traffic off the roads and on to rivers and canals have not been successful, auditors said today.

A European Court of Auditors review of projects co-funded by the EU found they had not been implemented effectively and progress had been slow. The main barriers holding up the lack of progress were physical bottlenecks on Europe’s inland waterway network, including low bridges, inefficient locks and stretches of water that are too narrow to accommodate significant traffic.

Iliana Ivanova, the ECA member responsible for the report, said: ‘A single cargo vessel on a river can replace hundreds of trucks on the road and therefore reduce congestion, pollution and accidents in the whole EU. Shifting freight traffic from roads to the network of rivers and canals can be beneficial to all EU citizens. However, more than a decade after the EU declared it a priority, development of this mode of transport lags behind road and rail.

‘A connected Europe with a sustainable transport strategy requires greater effort by the EU to improve its waterways and create a more balanced share of options across road, rail and water.’

The report noted that EU member states had paid little attention to their inland waterways, despite the European Commission selecting them as a priority back in 2001.

It added that the cost of eliminating bottlenecks exceeded ‘by far’ available EU funding and extra resources were needed from national and/or private sources to make up the shortfall.

Auditors also criticised the lack of a coherent strategy from member states connected by waterways and said the EU should place a greater emphasis on river maintenance and environmental considerations.

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