One of the most important initiatives of the European Year of Rail, the Connecting Europe Express passed through the Dutch port city of Rotterdam yesterday and arrives today in another port, Antwerp in Belgium.

Arriving in major European port cities, the interdependencies and mutual reinforcement of European ports and rail freight links come to the fore. Increasing the share of rail freight will be an important element in achieving the objectives of the EU’s Green Deal and should therefore be a central objective of the European Year of Rail.

Most European ports are located near urban nodes with high pressure on the road network, making the increased use of rail freight a necessary choice for many ports. And conversely, for rail freight operations, a significant portion of the goods transported on the tracks, particularly in high-growth markets such as intermodal traffic, pass through the port.

On the occasion of the arrival of the Express in Rotterdam and Antwerp this week, the European Maritime Ports Organization (ESPO), the European Rail Infrastructure Manager (EIM), the European Rail Freight Association (ERFA) as well as the European Community of Railways and Infrastructure (CER) jointly called for greater attention to rail-port connectivity.

Modal shift is one of the main pillars of the Commission’s sustainable and smart mobility strategy, necessary to achieve a 90% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from transport in order to meet the climate targets of the EU. In Europe, a large part of rail freight passes through its seaports, but the modal split of rail links to the hinterland varies considerably. Some seaports have nearly 50% of modal split towards rail. Improving port-rail links on a larger scale, both in terms of infrastructure and operation, is therefore crucial to increase the share of goods transported by rail.

The Interconnection Mechanism in Europe II should particularly promote rail projects, which improve connectivity to and from European seaports, as a better link will bring direct efficiency gains for a large part of rail freight.

Isabelle Ryckbost, Secretary General of ESPO: “Improving the last mile must be a top priority to transport more goods on rail, in terms of interoperability, data exchange, operations and infrastructure . In Europe, we see a great diversity of rail management systems in European ports. We need a level playing field and equal access to public funding for the necessary infrastructure investments, whether the managing body of the port or the national rail infrastructure manager is responsible for the rail infrastructure at the same time. inside the port.

Monika Heiming, Executive Director of EIM: “Infrastructure managers see rail-port connectivity as an essential tool to create the modal shift essential for freight, in order to meet the ambitious environmental policies of the European Commission. The opportunities for financing strategic investments in rail-port links under the new mechanism for interconnection in Europe II are therefore welcome. Infrastructure managers will continue to improve coordination between rail and ports with all stakeholders involved.

Conor Feighan, ERFA General Secretary: “In order for rail freight to become more attractive to end users, rail freight companies must have access to the right quantity and quality of capacity. As key gateways for freight, it is therefore essential that ports have infrastructure that facilitates the development of a competitive rail freight market.

Dr Alberto Mazzola, Executive Director of the CER: “Integrated and efficient connections between ports and rail infrastructure, both in Europe and in third countries, are crucial to achieve the modal shift objectives necessary for the decarbonization of transport . Improving last mile links must be accompanied by interoperable freight standards on the network and the revision of the TEN-T regulation is an opportunity to close the gaps and bring together ports and rail corridors.


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