Austria to use Danube for sustainable transport

Between 2001 and 2005, Austria intends to shift 3% of international road transport to, from and via the country in the Danube corridor to new inland waterway services.

The system is to result in 2.5 million tonnes transferred from road to new inland waterway services on the Danube river, and has been approved as a pilot scheme by the European Commission, which has provided a yearly budget of one million euros (£610,000) to support the setting-up of new high-quality international combined inland waterway services on the Danube.

The river, Europe’s second longest, was long an important means of transporting goods as it runs through Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania, and Ukraine, and it is hoped that the Austrian system will kickstart a freight revival along this part of the river. Following the removal of a bombed bridge in Yugoslavia by the United Nations at the end of the Balkan war, the river is once again fully-navigable.

Under the pilot scheme, support is given as an environmental premium from 12 euros (£7.30) up to 27 euros (£16.50) per container transported, depending on the size of the loading unit. The subsidy is given under the 35 million euros (£21.4 million) Pilot Actions for Combined Transport (PACT) Programme, which ends in December. PACT gives funding for innovative international projects combining different modes of transport, which aims to show that ‘combined’ transport can be viable and can survive without public aid after its start-up phase.

The Austrian scheme achieved PACE subsidies for proving that it would provide a regular, viable service which will not cause undue distortion of competition with other transport services.

“The Austrian scheme complements efforts we are making at European level to stimulate more sustainable transport,” said Commission Vice-President Loyola de Palacio, in charge of energy and transport policy. “The Pilot Programme is leading the way towards more efficient state aid to take trucks off the road and ensures that competition is not unduly distorted. It is also positive that it includes the Eastern neighbours of the European Union.”

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