Fast and efficient transport underpins Europe's economy. Road is the preferred mode but rising traffic volumes cause congestion, pollution and extra costs. Alternatives exist which make economic and environmental sense - rail, sea and inland waterways. Some transport professionals hesitate to switch modes or to implement new distribution techniques aimed at reducing or avoiding road transport. The EU's Marco Polo programme is for them. A Marco Polo grant can make the difference between launching a modal-shift or traffic avoidance project or not. It co-funds new projects during the crucial start-up phase before they become profitable.
Marco Polo aims to free Europe's roads of an annual volume of 20 billion tonne-kilometres of freight, the equivalent of more than 700 000 trucks a year travelling between Paris and Berlin. This will not be easy. Alternative forms of transport may well be greener, cleaner and even cheaper over time, but producers, manufacturers and hauliers can be reluctant to invest in change in what is a very competitive sector of the economy.
Marco Polo incentives can make the difference. A company with a project to transfer freight from road to rail or short-sea shipping routes or inland waterways may qualify for a Marco Polo grant. So may companies aiming to avoid or reduce road transport, or offering support services like management systems, cargo control and common IT platforms or special training programmes. The programme budget for 2007-2013 is €450 million.
Find out all about Marco Polo on this site, from general programme details (About the programme) to how to obtain a grant (Getting funds) and how to manage the project (Managing a project). You can also see what Marco Polo has already achieved (Marco Polo in action).