Here, Europe’s Commissioner for Transport presents here her vision for multimodal transport

Transport: Multimodality

Violeta Bulc European Commissioner for Transport at European Commission

29 October 2019

As part of my vision for the Transport Union #multimodality was one of the key concepts of transport. As the mandate of the Juncker Commission is ending I am providing some insight in things done during my time as Commissioner for Transport.


VERTICAL INTEGRATION, WITHOUT MONOPOLIES mandated access to certain key data, made progress on standardisation and interoperability (European Maritime Single Window, e-documents, DTLF, DINA). 

LEVEL-PLAYING FIELD:ground-breaking study on internalisation of external costs revealed the polluter-pays principle is not in place for any mode. The study provides the facts on which to base decisions on the extent and ways in which to internalise external costs in the future. 

VISION 0: zero pollution and emissions from transport by 2050. 

GREEN TRANSPORT INVESTMENTS: CEF invested a total of €18 billion in 381 projects linked to decarbonisation (€15.7bn in 236 railway projects), €1.6bn in 48 inland waterway projects, €0.3bn in 62 multimodal projects and €0.4bn in 35 decarbonisation projects). 

INNOVATION IN MULTIMODALITY: R&I (Horizon 2020) funding for multimodal projects, e.g. a MaaS research projects under Shift2Rail and iMOVE (collection of real-time data on user needs and preferences to enable seamless interoperability between multiple MaaS schemes).  

NEW MFF:Reinforced CEF (€42.3 billion) and threefold increase for CEF-Digital funding (€3 billion).  

KEY LEGISLATION: European Maritime Single Window, European Electronic Tolling System, Regulation on use of smart tachographs.

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1.   Why EU support for multimodality?

With the total external costs of transport reaching €1000 billion per year, multimodality matters more now than ever before: it can make the movement of cargo and passengers more sustainable, more efficient and often faster by combining different modes of transport as appropriate.

Multimodality is also closely linked to the four cornerstones of the Transport Union: a smart mix and a modal shift to less polluting modes helps to decarbonise transport and reduce other negative externalities, such as air pollution and congestion. Digitalisation allows the generation and exchange of big and smart data – a prerequisite for a seamless mobility experience across modes, and for integrated planning, ticketing and payment services. Innovation is at the forefront of new applications, business and social models that are needed to make multimodality a reality. Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is but one example. Finally, multimodality needs investment: in transport infrastructure, to connect modes in a smart way, and in digital infrastructure, which underpins the delivery of multimodal services.

2.   Multimodality – achievements & remaining challenges

Multimodal mobility involves five layers – infrastructure, data, application, service and network. Our approach has involved allowing vertical integration via open data applications, interfaces and regulated interoperability, whilst avoiding monopolies.

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2.1.  Access to the data layer – what have we done?

It is essential to keep all layers decoupled and open for competition via public product/service/application interfaces, as well as to set clear rules for private, industry and public data. This is crucial for the development of competitive markets and industry.

The EU has therefore mandated access to certain data: EU-wide multimodal travel information (timetables, access nodes, bike- and car-sharing, vehicles facilities, standard fares for all modes….); rail freight information (e.g. expected time of arrival). The European Maritime Single Window (EMSW) makes arrival and departure times of ships publicly available. The passenger side/integrated ticketing remains a challenge.

2.2. Standards, interfaces and interoperability – what have we done?

  • The European Maritime Single Window introduces a fully harmonised environment for ship reporting: savings of €725 million by 2030 and reporting time cut in half; this could be a blueprint for standardisation work at IMO level as well.
  • Our proposal on electronic freight documents (e-docs) will enable companies to submit administrative documents in all modes electronically: savings of €20-27 billion expected by 2040.
  • The Digital Inland Waterway Area (DINA) interconnects information on infrastructure, people, operations, fleet and cargo in the inland waterway transport sector and with other transport modes.
  • Within the Digital Transport and Logistics Forum (DTLF), companies from all modes build a common and interoperable data layer for freight multimodality. In 2018, the DTLF began creating a common digital language across modes. Since January 2019, it is engaged in defining technical and governance rules on accessing multimodal traffic data, on the positioning of goods, and on the availability of vehicle capacity and transport equipment.

2.3. Level playing field – what have we done?

  • Ground-breaking study on the internalisation of external costs: we have a ‘society and environment pays’ principle in place rather than ‘user pays’ or ‘polluter pays; users and polluters never pay for their costs in total, in any of the modes. We now have all the necessary information at our disposal to decide to what extent, and how, we should internalise external costs.
  • The existing Combined Transport Directive is the only legal instrument entirely dedicated to levelling the playing field and supporting a modal shift away from long-distance road transport. Our proposal to revise this Directive sought to clarify the definition of ‘combined transport’ and eligibility for support, to simplify compliance and enforcement, and further promote investments in transhipment terminals.

3.   Current financing and next MFF / CEF

  • Under the current CEF, funding requests for multimodal freight platforms or for access to such terminals were very high, with over 35 project proposals requesting close to €190 million in 2018. An additional 23 project proposals were submitted for multimodal innovation and passenger projects, requesting more than €120 million in funding.
  • R&I funding is also used to promote multimodality. For example, a number of ‘Mobility as a Service’ research projects have been funded through Shift2Rail and under Horizon 2020. The IMOVE project is developing tools to collect real-time data on mobility user needs and preferences and to enable the exchange of information and seamless interoperability between multiple MaaS schemes.
  • For the next MFF, the Commission has proposed a reinforced CEF with a total budget of €42.3 billion, and the budget for CEF Digital would be tripled (to €3 billion).

4.   Next steps

  • Political debate on the internalisation of external costs, taking into account social consequences.
  • Single logistics multimodal window.
  • Agreement on open data and open interfaces, including a code of conduct for data-sharing.
  • Further rules on open data.
  • Integrated logistics and ticketing.
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