The plenary sitting that took place from 22 to 25 April gave first-reading approval to the Commission’s proposal for the creation of a European rail network for competitive freight which aims to improve the efficiency of international rail freight transport. The amendments adopted in plenary ensured that corridors would link at least two Member States, would be part of the TEN-T but would also include other sections carrying high or potentially high volumes of freight traffic. The freight corridors would be managed by a governance body, responsible for determining priority rules in case of disruption and congestion. MEPs also voted to increase the flexibility in the management of the corridors and to create a facilitated freight category for highly time-sensitive goods. Within one year Members States with at least two direct links with other Member States would have to allow at least one freight corridor. For the rest of Member States the deadline is three years.
MEPs also voted in favour of the report by Michel Teychenné (PES, FR) on the rights of passengers travelling by sea and inland waterway. One of the key points has been the introduction of cases of force majeure which take account of the specific nature of maritime transport. In these cases of force majeure, such as tidal conditions or the formation of ice, the compensation rules laid down in the regulation would not apply.
During the session, the plenary also approved the simplification of the Marco Polo programme which encourages the shift of freight transport from road to more sustainable and environmentally-friendly transport modes. The current Marco Polo programme runs from 2007-13 with a budget of €450 million. The changes adopted include simplified application procedures and will facilitate the participation by small enterprises and consortiums, lower the tonne-kilometre thresholds for eligibility, raise the funding intensity and speed the payment of the funds.
The next Marco Polo Baltic Conference will take place in Gdansk on 23-24 September.