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EU Commission proposes measures to decarbonise freight transport

The European Commission has proposed new measures to improve rail infrastructure management, offer stronger incentives for low-emission lorries and provide better information on freight transport greenhouse gas emissions (11 July).

These measures aim to increase efficiency within the sector, helping it to contribute to the target of cutting transport emissions by 90 per cent by 2050.

For rail transport, the Commission proposes a regulation to better respond to the different needs of the rail sector: stable timetables and early booking of tickets for passenger services, and flexible train runs adapted to “just-in-time supply chains” for freight shippers.

Whilst in road freight, the EU’s executive body proposes to revise the current Weights and Dimensions Directive, which sets the maximum weight length, width and height for heavy-duty vehicles, to enable additional weight for vehicles using zero-emission technologies.

In 2020, more than 50 per cent of freight was carried by road in the EU, which is a “major contributor” to greenhouse gas emissions, the Commission said.

The Commission’s proposal also aims to provide clarity on the use in cross-border traffic, in certain conditions, of heavier and longer vehicles, which are allowed today in some member states. This includes clarifying that EU countries that allow European Modular Systems (EMS) in their territories, would also be able to use them in international operations among other EU member states, without a need for a bilateral agreement and without a restriction of crossing only one border. This would mean the same amount of cargo can be carried in fewer trips.

To encourage intermodal transport, whereby goods are moved using two or more transport modes but with a standardised cargo unit (like a container trailer or other), lorries, trailers and semitrailers, the proposal would be permitted to carry extra weight. The extra height would also facilitate the transport of high-cube containers by standard vehicles.

“With today’s proposals, we take another step on the journey to sustainable transport. Every day, billions of goods are travelling on European roads and railway tracks, from harbours and customs points to shops and to our homes. Our proposals will help to get more zero-emission trucks on the road and make sure that this freight is handled in the most sustainable way possible, whether it travels by truck, train or barge,” said Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal.

Additionally, the Commission is proposing a common methodological approach for companies to calculate their greenhouse gas emissions if they choose to publish this information, or if they are asked to share it for contractual reasons.

Reliable data on door-to-door emissions would enable operators to benchmark their services and allow consumers to make informed choices on transport and delivery options, the Commission said.

The proposals will now be considered by the European Parliament and the European Council in the ordinary EU legislative procedure.

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