Inland waterways, a sustainable alternative for goods transport

Europe is launching new measures to promote the movement of goods by rivers and canals. The project, Naides II, is aiming for an improved quality of transport by inland waterways.

The 20 member States of the EU have around 37,000 kilometres of navigable waterways, which are currently used to move 500 million tons of cargo.

The intertwined river systems of the Rhine, the Scheldt and the Meuse are connected with the Seine and the Danube. However the existence of major bottlenecks prevents the European river systems from being fully integrated into the European transport system.

The aim of the programme is to realise the potential of these underused inland waterways, with action being taken in four areas: to move cargo with greater ease, by removing bottlenecks; to back a move to a more ecological form of transport; to increase innovationand to improve employment opportunities.

The sector is currently unable to develop its full potential due to the bottlenecks caused by inadequately sized locks, bridges and canals together with missing links in the network, such as the connection between the Seine and the Scheldt.

The Commission therefore has proposed an improvement in the transport of cargo by inland waterway through the renovation of locks, bridges and canals. The new Connecting Europe Facility and TEN-T guidelines give priority to new funding opportunities for inland waterways – inland waterways are moreover an important component of six out of nine TEN-T core network corridors.

Given that this is a safe mode of transport that is low energy consumption, low pollution, with low noise levels, new measures will be introduced including new standards for engines to encourage investment in low emission technologies as well as support for research and innovation.

Equally, efforts will be made to strengthen the links between inland waterways, road and rail, with special attention being paid to connections with maritime and river ports. Cargo handling facilities will also be improved at the same time as there is a reduction in paperwork and a greater investment in the qualifications of the workforce.