Select Committee on European Scrutiny Twenty-Fourth Report


COM(02) 54

SEC(02) 91

Draft Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the
granting of Community financial assistance to improve the environmental
performance of the freight transport system.

Commission Staff Working Paper: Results of the PACT programme (Pilot
Actions for Combined Transport) 1997-2001 — Situation on 30 September

Legal base:(a) Article 71(1) and 80(2); co-decision; qualified majority voting
(b) —
Documents originated:4 February 2002
Forwarded to the Council: (a) 5 February 2002
(b) 4 February 2002
Deposited in Parliament: 28 February 2002
Department:Transport, Local Government and the Regions
Basis of consideration: EM 11 March 2002
Previous Committee Report: None
To be discussed in Council: June 2002
Committee's assessment:Politically important
Committee's decision:(Both) Cleared


  11.1  The PACT (Pilot Actions for Combined Transport) programme, which ended in September 2001, was an integral part of the Commission's efforts to shift freight from road transport to other modes of transport. The Commission says of PACT:

    "This Regulation authorises the Community to spend euro35 million over the period 1997 to 2001. The procedures are designed to be straightforward and give all transport companies in the European Union, including particularly small and medium enterprises, the possibility of applying for Community funding. Since 1992, more than 160 projects all over Europe have been funded by PACT."

  11.2  An example of a successful project supported under the PACT programme is a new service using rail and maritime transport to link Sweden with Italy via Germany and Austria, which will take about 450,000 tonnes from congested roads and improve transit times by up to 48 hours.

The documents

  11.3  The Marco Polo programme, document (a), is intended as the successor of the PACT programme. It was announced in the Commission White Paper "European transport policy for 2010: time to decide",[14] which was debated in European Standing Committee A on 13 March 2002. Like PACT, the Marco Polo programme intends to improve the environmental performance of the transport system by promoting the shift of freight from road transport to short-sea shipping and to rail and inland waterway transport. However the Marco Polo programme is larger in scope than PACT. The Commission proposes a budget of euro115 million (2003 - 2007) compared with funding of euro35 million for the PACT programme. Unlike the PACT programme, the Marco Polo programme will not be limited to combined transport operations. The aim of the Marco Polo programme is to encompass all segments of the freight market, including bulk transport.

  11.4  In his Explanatory Memorandum of 11 March 2002, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Mr David Jamieson) describes the three types of action that will be supported under the Marco Polo programme:

    "Start­up support for new non­road freight services during their early loss­making period, while potential customers assess the frequency and regularity of the service. This will take the form of an 'external cost savings award', calculated according to the environmental, congestion and other benefits.

    "Support to stimulate risk­taking actions by private entrepreneurs where the commercial rates of return involved in trying to overcome structural impediments are too limited. This would involve the launch of freight services and facilities of strategic interest ('catalyst actions'). This follows one of the recommendations of the external evaluation of the PACT programme. Progress would be closely monitored by the Commission.

    "Stimulating cooperative behaviour in the freight logistics market ('common learning actions'). The Commission would act as 'honest broker', helping to build better working relationships between the parties, identifying and disseminating best practice. This also follows from the PACT programme, which is recognised as having in some cases improved the level of commitment in the consortia involved."

  11.5  The Minister adds:

    "The Commission thus distinguishes between start­up aid and catalyst actions. Start­up projects are foreseen in situations where freight markets are already working well. Their intention is to maximise traffic shift. The aim of catalyst actions, on the other hand, is to overcome market barriers. The Commission financial appraisal envisages 41 modal shift actions and 15 catalyst actions."

  11.6  Under the provisions of the Regulation, the Marco Polo programme will run from 1 January 2003 to 31 December 2010, with an interim evaluation by December 2006.

  11.7  Document (b) is a Staff Working Paper on the PACT programme as at 30 September 2001. The document contains a short summary of each of the 92 projects, including projects started before 1996 under the first PACT programme. Total commitments and total payments amounted to some euro30 million and euro22.4 million respectively. The document lists the following successes:

    —  A barge service between Lille and Rotterdam, taking about 50 trucks per day off the road in a heavily-used road traffic corridor;
  • A rail/maritime service between Spain and Germany, so avoiding the need for 6,500 truck journeys per year along congested road corridors;

  • An information system for freight tracking, which translates messages based on various different codes into a common language, accessible by the public via PC and the Internet; and

  • An in-depth feasibility study assessing the case for a new fast maritime service between Scotland and the continent.

The Government's view

  11.8  The Minister comments:

    "We can welcome this programme of financial assistance which aims to reduce the dependence on road transport for international freight movement. We would hope that it will include a number of projects involving the UK, as did the PACT programme. We expect to be able to take a positive line on negotiations on the regulation.

    "The provision of targeted financial assistance to promote modal transfer is consistent with the UK freight grant schemes administered by the Government.

    "Organisations will be the recipients of the financial assistance. An important role for the Government will be to ensure that potential UK recipients are aware of the programme, and to assist and advise them."


  11.9  The proposal to encourage the shift from road to other modes of transport was a central feature of the European Transport White Paper, which was debated on 13 March. We have no further questions on these documents and are content to clear them accordingly.

14  (22660) 11932/01; see HC 152-xv (2001-02), paragraph 2 (30 January 2002). Back

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