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Marco Polo schemes have lost their way, say Brussels auditors

[ July 23, 2013   //   ]

The Marco Polo programmes, aimed at shifting freight away from the roads, have been ineffective and should be discontinued in their current form, said a report from the European Court of Auditors (ECA) published on 16 July. It said the programmes were ineffective as they did not meet the targets, little impact was achieved in shifting freight off the roads and there were no data to assess whether policy objectives such as environmental benefits were being achieved, said Ville Itälä, the ECA member responsible for the report.

Since 2003, the Marco Polo I and II programmes have financed transport service projects designed to shift freight transport from road to rail, inland waterways and short sea shipping as part of the EU transport policy objective to develop alternatives to road-only freight transport.

But the audit found there were not enough relevant project proposals put forward because the market situation and the programme rules discouraged operators from taking advantage of the scheme. Half of the audited projects were of limited sustainability.

The report also found many projects which would have gone ahead even without EU funding.

The ECA recommends discontinuing EU funding for transport freight services and that, in future, funding should depend on an impact assessment at the outset.

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