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Source: Fotolia / kalafoto

The trans-European transport network policy is based on the realization that efficient and well-connected infrastructure is of vital importance for competitiveness, growth, jobs and prosperity in the European Union. Article 170 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union emphasizes the importance of transport infrastructure policy, the trans-European transport networks (TEN-T), as a precondition for achieving the internal market and for the freedom to provide services.

The TEN-T policy is largely shaped by the European Commission's Mobility and Transport Directorate-General (DG MOVE) in cooperation with the EU Member States.

The TEN-T Regulation (EU) No 1315/2013 on Union guidelines for the development of the trans-European transport network defines general objectives and priorities as well as specific technical requirements for the TEN-T. The Annexes of the Regulation contain maps of the networks (roads, railways, waterways) and lists of the core network nodes that belong to the TEN-T – maritime and inland ports, airports and intermodal terminals.

The TEN-T comprises two layers: a comprehensive network and a core network. The core network is due to be completed by 2030 at the latest, and the comprehensive network by 2050. Nine corridors have been defined as the core network, reflecting the major long-distance routes of the internal market. Six of these corridors run through Germany. They are multimodal and designed to strengthen in particular cross-border links within the Union. The comprehensive network contains railway infrastructure, inland waterway infrastructure, road transport infrastructure, maritime infrastructure and sea motorways, air transport infrastructure as well as multimodal transport infrastructure. The core network is part of the comprehensive network and contains its strategically most relevant nodes and connections. The whole waterway network is attributed to the core network.

According to the TEN Regulation, an EU Coordinator is assigned to each corridor. Furthermore, there are coordinators for the Motorways of the Sea and the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS). In consultation with the Member States, the coordinators draw up work plans for the corridors and monitor their implementation.

The new Connecting Europe Facility (CEF2) Regulation (EU) No 2021/1153, which was adopted on 7 July 2021, defines the level to which certain measures/projects are eligible for funding. In non-cohesion states such as Germany, funding may cover up to 50 % of the costs.

TEN funding is only granted on application and only in response to a prior call for applications by the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA) on behalf of the European Commission. There is no legal entitlement to grants. Applications may be submitted by EU Member States or, with their approval, by public bodies as well as private enterprises having their own legal personality.

Regulation (EU) No 2021/1153 “Connecting Europe Facility (CEF2)”

In the new multiannual financial framework (2021 – 2027), the new CEF2 Regulation (EU) 2021/1153 will replace the CEF1 Regulation (EU) 1316/2013, which has been very successful so far. The CEF2 is a common financial assistance regulation for all trans-European networks (transport, energy and digital services). It defines what kind of measures are eligible for funding, to what extent and under what conditions. CEF2 is the most important TEN-T funding instrument.

In general, funding support is provided in the form of (investment) grants. In deviation from the foregoing, funding support for electric mobility and other forms of alternative fuel infrastructures is granted through a financial instrument within the framework of the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Facility (AFIF). In this case, financial aid is only granted if the project also receives funding from promotional banks such as the EIB or other credit institutions. With the aforementioned institutions’ funding commitments that have to be proven, the Commission wants to ensure that the projects are sufficiently close to the market. The CEF2’s funding envelope was established within the framework of the negotiations on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFR). In the current MFR, a budget of 25.807 billion euros will be available for the maintenance and upgrading of transport infrastructure. Of this amount, 11.286 billion euros may be used exclusively for projects in recipient countries of the Cohesion Fund. In addition, 1.691 billion euros will be provided for Military Mobility projects.

The European Commission expects that considerable investments will be required in order to complete the TEN-T core network by 2030. It estimates the costs for the core network corridors alone at around 550 billion euros.

In response to the economic consequences of the COVID-19 crisis, the European Commission has launched the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) as a key element of the NextEU Initiative. The RRF supports Member States in their national reform programmes and monitors the implementation of the country-specific recommendations within the framework of the European Semester. Where the national plans to be developed by the Member States for the RRF also provide for transport infrastructure investments, this may generate additional impetus for the TEN-T. In the MFR, the European Commission further earmarks around 95.5 billion euros for the period from 2021 to 2027 for the new research and innovation programme Horizon Europe. Horizon Europe is aimed at combating climate change. This will contribute to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and strengthen competitiveness and growth in the EU.

Article 4 of the TEN-T Regulation names general objectives of the trans-European transport networks (cohesion, efficiency and sustainability as well as increasing the benefits for its users). Article 3 of the CEF2 Regulation specifies these objectives as follows:

  • to contribute to the development of projects of common interest relating to efficient, interconnected and multimodal networks and infrastructure for smart, interoperable, sustainable, inclusive, accessible, safe and secure mobility in accordance with the objectives of the TEN Regulation.
  • to adapt parts of the TEN-T for the dual use of the transport infrastructure with a view to improving both civilian and military mobility.

Article 9 of the CEF2 Regulation defines eligible actions as follows:

  • Actions relating to efficient, interconnected, interoperable and multimodal networks for the development of railway, road, inland waterway and maritime infrastructure
  • “Horizontal Priorities”, i. e. innovative management and services, new technologies and innovation (e.g. ERTMS, RIS, ITS)
  • Actions serving the purpose of Military Mobility (specified in more detail in Article 12 of the CEF2 Regulation)

Annex I of the CEF2 also lists projects on the core network which are to be given priority in funding:

  • Individual projects on the nine core network corridors
  • Other pre-identified sections on the core network

The European Commission focuses on the completion of the core network corridors by 2030.

In accordance with Article 15 of the CEF2 Regulation, the following maximum funding rates apply to Germany as a non-cohesion state:

General Envelope:

ProjectsFieldMaximum funding rate
StudiesAll modes of transport50 %
WorksGeneral30 %
Cross-border50 %
Telematic applications systems50 %
Inland waterways50 %
Railway interoperability50 %
New technologies and innovation50 %
Infrastructure safety50 %
Adapting the transport infrastructure for Union external border checks purposes 50 %
Military Mobility:
ProjectsFieldMaximum funding rate
StudiesAll modes of transport50 % / 85 %
WorksAll modes of transport50 % / 85 %

The Federal Government supports an integrated European transport system with intermodal solutions. Modern transport infrastructure and modes of transport are an indispensable requirement for a well-functioning economy, and efficient infrastructure is a clear locational advantage. Conversely, a neglected infrastructure threatens to reduce growth and employment. A future-proof transport system must meet environmental, economic and societal challenges and take into account our citizens' interests. Mobility as a whole is to become more modern, more efficient, less noisy and more sustainable.

The growth in traffic must be shouldered by all modes of transport. Against this background, the aim of the Federal Government's transport policy is to safeguard the capacity and efficiency of all modes of transport and, by interlinking them in an optimum manner, to ensure that they can deploy their inherent strengths in the overall system.

The Federal Government has clearly defined its priorities for the years ahead in the current 2030 Federal Transport Infrastructure Plan (FTIP) and the upgrading acts that entered into force in 2016:

  • prioritising investments in replacements and renewals for all modes of transport;
  • prioritising the completion of ongoing projects in upgrading and new construction;
  • removal of bottlenecks on major transport routes and at vital nodes.

The FTIP contains more than 1,000 individual projects (49 % road, 42 % railways, 9 % waterways) with a total level of funding of about 270 billion euros. The priorities of the Federal Government and the European Commission are almost identical: For instance, almost all major upgrading and new construction projects are on railways on core network corridors. Furthermore, the approach of the European Commission to focus investments (grants) on upgrading the corridors coincides with the FTIP’s priority on upgrading the busy nodes and major transport routes.

This is why the Federal Government supports the European Commission in developing and establishing the trans-European transport network.