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Revision of the Combined Transport Directive

Combined transport is promoted within the European Union (EU) through the Combined Transport Directive 92/106/EC. The Directive seeks to promote combined transport operations through the elimination of authorisation procedures and quantitative restrictions for combined transport operations. It clarifies the non-application of road cabotage restrictions on road legs and provides financial support through tax incentives for certain combined transport operations.

In the framework of the EU transport policy for a transition to low-energy and decarbonised transport, the Combined Transport Directive was already a focal point with a proposal[1] for a revision initiated by the European Commission in 2017. The Commission has revived this topic by publishing the roadmap[2] in August 2021. The objective is to facilitate an increase in the share of rail, short sea shipping and inland waterways, so that all modes of freight transport can play their full part in reducing GHG emissions in line with the 2050 climate neutrality objective.

In 2022, the Commission opened a consultation based on four scenarios: a first scenario with no changes, and three scenarios with more restrictive changes to the regulations, notably on the methods of calculating external costs, the factoring-in of externalities other than GHG emissions such as pollution, noise or accident levels, and lastly - and above all - the compulsory nature of state aid for combined transport. Indeed, it is intended to clarify the option whereby the scope of the directive as it stands would be extended to all intermodal transport modes, all types of intermodal loading unit (ILU) and all intermodal and multimodal movements. Besides Option 1 (keep the status quo), the Commission intends to examine these three other options:

  • Option 2: extend support for combined transport operations to all intermodal and multimodal operations. Member States can choose from a list of economic and regulatory support measures, with at least one economic measure being mandatory. Establish a categorisation of terminals based on infrastructure and develop regulatory requirements for terminals as regards data exchange with other participants in the transport chain.

  • Option 3: as Option 2, plus an obligation that the support measures to be adopted must be chosen based on regular transport system analysis and planning, thereby also enabling an assessment of the efficiency of the measures adopted to support the attainment of the objectives of the revised Combined Transport Directive.

  • Option 4: as Option 3, plus a certain number of mandatory harmonised support measures provided to shippers/logistics operators, such as support for transhipment costs or operational support per loading unit in intermodal transport.


On 19 September 2022, CER shared a position paper  on the revision of the multimodal regulatory framework of the Combined Transport Directive and the Directive on Weights and Dimensions of Road Vehicles. This final position paper sets out the 10 guiding principles for the revision of the Combined Transport Directive. CIT was closely involved, in particular concerning the applicability of COTIF/CIM international rail transport law to the continuous multimodal transport contract. Indeed, the promotion of rail-based combined transport chains can be greatly facilitated by the systematic use of the rail (CIM) consignment note as a means to prove the existence of a single rail-road contract of carriage. According to the COTIF, the CIM consignment note can cover both the rail and road legs of combined transport operations in a single contract.

The Commission has thus undertaken to revise the directive by proposing to assign it new objectives, in particular to enable better account to be taken of the external costs of each mode of transport and better information on these costs to be provided to the players, all of which should make combined transport more attractive. The Commission is currently working on finalising the proposed revision of the Combined Transport Directive. The outcome of these final consultations should be known soon, and publication of the Commission's legislative proposal is expected in June 2023.

[1] https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:52017PC0648&from=EN

[2] https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/13010-Sustainable-transport-revision-of-Combined-Transport-Directive_en

[3] http://www.cer.be/sites/default/files/publication/2022-09-19_CER_PositionPaper_Combined%20Transport-Weights%20%26%20Dimensions.pdf