New input for changes to Combined Transport Directive

Efforts to revise the Combined Transport Directive have continued. The European Commission has revealed a new plan to change the legislative text. Among others, the scope of the Directive would be extended to cover all multimodal transport operations that promise to save on external cost.

The amendment of the Combined Transport (CT) Directive has been in process for several years. The text, dating back 28 years, needs to be modernised. The changing realities and ambitions require new measures, especially in light of the climate change objectives of the EU. The International Union for Road-Rail Combined Transport (UIRR) has been one of the organisations advocating the changes.

Inception Impact Assessment

On 19 August, the European Commission unveiled the Inception Impact Assessment (IIA), that sets out the scope within which the amendment is to be developed. The IIA reflects on the European Climate Law objectives and the Strategy for Smart and Sustainable Mobility (SSSM), while it must also take note of the 6th Global Climate Change Report of the IPCC.

In order to meet the European Climate Law’s decarbonisation objectives, a significant uptake of more sustainable transport options is needed, argues the UIRR. Due to the wide range of transport externalities not reflected in the prices of road haulage today, the market currently does not provide sufficient incentives, argues the Commission. An EU-level framework of uniform conditions and support measures are needed to fulfill the targets contained in the SSSM for market share growth of rail freight, shortsea shipping and inland waterway transport.

New measures

Several measures are outlined in the IIA to be scrutinised over the coming months:

  • Extend the scope of the Directive to all intermodal or multimodal transport operations that promise to save on externalities beyond a certain threshold when evaluating against road-only transport using a common calculation method. Terminals should be categorized to orient their development and a labelling system developed for all freight transport operations.
  • The previous option plus a requirement of regular transport system analysis to assess the efficiency of the support measures chosen by the Member States.
  • The two previous options plus a range of mandatory support measures.
  • Under all three scenarios consideration will be given to keeping the benefits only for combined transport operations contained in the present Directive.

“Whether the policymaker legislates a definition of Combined Transport or replaces it with an externality calculator – created to determine which road-alternative transport solutions are to be supported – it does not alter the need for inland freight transport services that are energy-efficient, zero-carbon, low-pollution, safe, do not contribute to congestion and offer high value-added jobs with a healthy work/life balance”, the UIRR says.

“What matters is the workability of the regulatory conditions in real life: does it simplify an anyway complicated regulatory framework? Does it make enforcement easier?

Intermodal most efficient

“The intermodal transshipment technique is the most efficient to shift cargo by the truckload and half-a-truckload from road to rail freight and other sustainable means of freight transport. The most effective and least risky solution to decarbonising inland freight transport – through shifting cargo presently carried end-to-end by trucks – is Zero-Carbon Combined Transport. UIRR will actively participate in the process to develop the proposal for the revision of the Combined Transport Directive under these premise” the industry group concluded.

The CT Directive amendment was originally introduced by the Commission in November 2017, but withdrawn in February 2020, to the dissapointment of the UIRR. “This delay can only be justified if the withdrawal results in the re-tabling of an amendment with an improved, more effective content, it commented back then. The new IIA is a new spark of hope in the process.

Author: Majorie van Leijen

Majorie van Leijen is the editor-in-chief of, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

2 comments op “New input for changes to Combined Transport Directive”

Trainspot / K-report|27.08.21|15:03

What will probably happen if we demand 100% emission-free trucking for intermodal transport operation in the EU and at the same time the competition of classic low-cost and social-dumping trucking continues?

Trainspot / K-report|27.08.21|15:04

What will probably happen if we demand 100% emission-free trucking for intermodal transport in the EU and at the same time the competition of classic low-cost and social-dumping trucking continues?

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