Marco Polo Programme

Given the steady rise in traffic flows in Europe it is a central concern of transport policy Europe-wide that road transport should be shifted to more environmentally friendly modes of transport such as rail and short sea shipping or inland waterway transport.

The current White Paper of the European Union (EU) suggests appropriate measures accordingly. One of these is the EU programme known as "Marco Polo II" (duration 2007 - 2013). Marco Polo II seeks

  • to reduce road congestion,
  • improve the environmental performance of the freight transport system,
  • enhance intermodality (the performance of transport operations using more than one transport mode),
  • to manage the flow of traffic.

Marco Polo II is aimed at companies keen to move and to enhance traffic from the roads on to the railways and/or shipping within the European Union (EU). Marco Polo II is a commercially-oriented financing instrument which can be deployed rapidly.

As of 1 January 2007 operators can submit proposals for modal shift projects to the European Commission and, if approved in a selection procedure carried out by officials of the Commission, they receive start-up financing for the operation of freight transport services which use rail and/or shipping. In this way the initial risks of a modal shift project are cushioned by financial assistance which is limited both in its amount (30 – 50 percent maximum) and in time (two to four years).