The European Commission has adopted new rules to broaden the scope of its successful Marco Polo programme, which has been supporting sustainable transport projects since 2003.
The programme gives financial support to the transport industry in order to reduce road freight on our congested roads or to shift it to other more sustainable transport modes, like shipping, rail or inland waterways. The conditions for participation have been improved to further increase its appeal to the industry, will apply to the next call for proposals due for the beginning of next year.
Vice-President Antonio Tajani i, responsible for transport, commented: "The Marco Polo programme plays a vital role in getting Europe moving. We want to build on that success by making it easier for companies to participate in this process. The rules adopted today can help them change towards sustainable transport services. "
The amendments include a general reduction of the minimum thresholds for eligible projects, with a special reduced threshold for projects aiming to shift road freight to inland waterways. These changes will facilitate access to projects presented by smaller companies in general and inland waterways operators in particular. In addition it will be easier for these companies to apply for funding since the existence of a consortium for the application is no longer required.
The period going from the day of application to the signature of the grant agreements has also been shortened, giving beneficiaries quicker feedback from the Commission.
Finally, apart from other simplification measures, flexibility is added to the deadlines for completion of projects objectives and modal shift is extended to empty containers and transport vehicles if effectively taken out of the roads.
The projects supported by the first Marco Polo programme from 2003 until 2006 have already resulted in taking 31 billion tonne-kilometres from our roads, the equivalent of nearly 1.5 million trucks travelling from Paris to Berlin. Although this was already a substantial help to reduce congestion on the European roads, the second Marco Polo programme has seen its budget increase fourfold to €450 million for the period 2007/2013. With this budget the current objective of the programme is to shift or avoid a substantial part of the forecasted increase in international road transport, estimated in 20 billion tonne-kilometres per year.