1st Advisory Group Meeting in Brussels
About 40 stakeholders and policy-makers of European freight transport of chemical goods came together on 21 June 2017 at Saxony-Anhalt's Representation in Brussels to discuss policies aiming at increasing multimodal transport across Europe. This first Policy Advisory Group meeting was staged in the framework of the transnational Interreg project ChemMultimodal.
The event was opened by Dr. Jürgen Ude, Secretary of State of the Ministry for Economy, Science and Digitalisation of Saxony-Anhalt. In his welcome address, he explained the importance of the chemical industry for Saxony-Anhalt and the necessity of quick, reliable, safe and environmentally-friendly transport of chemical goods.
The first session of the event was dedicated to the decision-making process in European transport policies. Dr. Alexander Vogt, Transport Advisor, European Parliament, first introduced participants to the decision-making process in Brussels and in the European Parliament in particular. After his presentation, the recent activities of the European Commission to assess the legal framework (Combined Transport Directive; EC/92/106) were thereafter outlined by Astrid Schlewing (DG Mobility and Transport). First results point at barriers in the interoperability between modes and countries as well as the lack of knowledge and best practices in multimodal transport solutions. A reform proposal is anticipated to be passed by the college of the commissioners and is expected to enter the legislative process in 2018.). Very likely, special emphasis will be given on digital solutions, sharing and exploiting data and electronic documents.
Andreas Fiedler (Institute for Structural Policy and Economc Development) continued by underlining that the congestion of roads and the higher safety offered by rail for the transport of hazardous goods were the reasons for the cooperation in the ChemMultimodal project which he briefly introduces. The project also aims to contribute to a reduction of CO2 emitted by the transport of chemical goods.
To impact the European legislative process, good practices from chemical industries are welcome in the European Year of Multimodality in 2018. As the Europea Commission's consultation phase for the revision of the Combined Transport Directive has already closed, the European Parliament and the national governements should be addressed with proposals to impact the legislative process.
After a coffee break, Jos Verlinden (Cefic) opened the event's second session where the perspectives of different stakeholders were highlighted. He presented the recommendations formulated by his organisation to enhance intermodal transport across Europe. Those concern foremost the reliability (on-time guarantee), the efficiency (higher load volumes, train length), cross-country interoperability (harmonisation of technical standards) and the capacities of intermodal terminals. He highlighted furthermore the support of the chemical industry to decarbonise the transport of materials and products, knowing that the industry needs to become more transparent to share data on its cargo flow.
Akos Ersek (International Union for Road-Rail Combined Transport) explained to the participants afterwards the development of combined rail and road freight transport in recent years. He looks forward to the announced revision of the Combined Transport Directive by the European Commission especially regarding the harmonisation of technical standards. Lamenting that different modes of transport are usually dealt with by specialised units within a transport ministry, he advocated for a higher attention to freight transport when rail infrastructure is modernised.
Thinking intermodality must include road transport, Marc Billiet (International Road Transport Union) emphasised, it should be seen as a complemenatary and not a competitive element in the freight transport network. Furthermore, as the first and last mile of transport are to the vast majority undertaken by truck, innovation and greening of road transport should be addressed more.
As final speaker, Dr. Libor Jochmann (Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies) put forward the safety of rail transport for hazardous materials which is also due to the high number of regulations applying for rail transport. He also points out that competition in freight rail transport has significantly increased throughout Europe, leading to a higher efficiency. Yete, bottlenecks in rail infrastructure must be overcome quickly to allow for more multimodal transport, which requires better planning and more spending.
The final discussion highlighted that a number of challenges persist on the track towards achieving the ambitious objectives of greener freight transport in Europe. The increase of multimodal transport is one important cornerstone but not the only area where more efforts are necessary.