The European Court of Auditors assessed whether the EU inland waterway strategies were coherent and based on relevant and comprehensive analysis. In addition, the Court examined whether a sample of studies and projects co-funded by the EU budget contributed effectively to increase the modal share of this mode of transport and helped in improving navigability conditions.
The report finds that EU-funded efforts to shift freight traffic in Europe from roads to inland waterway transport have made slow progress in the last 15 years. EU auditors say that projects co-funded by the EU must be part of a strong corridor strategy to ensure inland waterway transport makes gains as an alternative to road transport and navigability is improved across the network.
ECA stresses that a connected Europe with a sustainable transport strategy requires greater effort by the EU to improve its waterways and create a more balanced share of options across road, rail and water. A coherent overall strategy between Member States connected by main water corridors is necessary to develop inland waterway transport focusing on sound maintenance and the elimination of bottlenecks on waterway corridors that provide the greatest benefits for improving inland waterway transport. These bottlenecks include bridges which are not high enough, inefficient locks and stretches of water which are not wide enough for traffic volumes.
Member States which invest strategically in their waterways reap the benefit of an increase of waterway transport in the modal split.
The Commission to whom the report is addressed agrees with most of the recommendations. Since 2006, the EU Naiades policy has created a more coherent approach to waterway transport and the new TEN-T infrastructure policy is based upon a corridor approach with major waterways being part of corridor plans. Maintenance moves higher on the agenda too with a Masterplan for the maintenance of the Danube.