The Marco Polo scheme supports commercial initiatives that stimulate the competitiveness of combined transport, and promote companies to look beyond exclusively road transport. The Motorways of the Sea (MoS) programme also supports initiatives to use water to overcome natural barriers such as the Pyrenees or the Alps.
In the Department for Transport’s ‘Transport Statistics Great Britain 2005’ document, it shows that domestic freight transport moved by road and rail has continually increased since 1992. In 2004 160Bn tonnes were moved by road and 21 by rail. The boom in Chinese manufacturing has affected the European Intermodal freight industry and the European Intermodal Association (EIA) recently intensified its relations by receiving a delegation of the Guangxi Railway Company, who were on a trip through Europe. The Marco Polo scheme, Marco Polo II and the Motorways of the Sea (MoS) have all helped to increase the percentage of intermodal transport in Europe. The Marco Polo programme is running from 2003 and will expire in 2010 when the second phase takes over. Participating countries invest into its Euro100M budget, which has scope to provide for all segments of the international freight transport market. The programme was initially established in an attempt to return the market shares of the modes transport to their 1998 levels by the year 2010. Many of the applications for EU funding under the project, outline services designed to speed the delivery of maritime boxes. Marco Polo was adopted in July 2003, with the objective to reduce road congestion and to improve environmental performance of the freight transport system within the community. It also had the task to enhance ‘intermodality’ thereby contributing to an efficient and sustainable transport system. The programme supports actions in the ftransport and logistics markets. These actions should contribute to maintain the distribution of freight between the various modes of transport at 1998 levels by helping to shift the expected aggregate increase in international road freight traffic of 12 billion tkm per year to short sea shipping, rail and inland waterways or to a combination of modes of transport in which road journeys are as short as possible. In July 2004, the EC proposed establishing a second and significantly expanded programme. The Marco Polo II programme deals with proposals from 2007 onwards and includes new actions such as Motorways of the sea and traffic avoidance measures. The programme which now has a budget of some Euro 740M for 2007-2013, has extended to countries bordering the EU. Lord Berkeley comments: “It clearly affects rail freight, since much of the traction uses diesel, and the Chancellor has not helped by increasing the duty on red diesel in order to compact fraud, even though he accepts that there is no evidence of fraud in the rail freight industry. ” In fact the only thing putting a brake on the growth of intermodal transport is the amount of red tape that is restricting the sector.