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Title: The Marco Polo II programme
Sectors of Transport: Transport, Environment and climate change, Transport, Logistics and multimodal transport, Tackling climate change, Clean & urban transport and sustainable transport, Cleaner transport, Rail, maritime & waterway transport
The Marco Polo II programme

The Marco Polo II programme



Regulation (EC) No 1692/2006 establishing the Marco Polo II programme for granting EU financial assistance to improve the environmental performance of the freight transport system


  • The Marco Polo II programme was designed to shift freight from the road to more environmentally friendly means of transport and to increase efficiency of transport operations by avoiding unnecessary traffic and empty runs.
  • The programme aimed at enhancing intermodality* by making better use in the transport system of the existing resources by incorporating short-sea shipping and rail and river transport into the logistics chain.
  • The regulation repeals Regulation (EC) No 1382/2003, which set up the first Marco Polo programme.


  • The Marco Polo II programme was in force from 2007 to 2013, as a successor to the Marco Polo I (2003-2006) and PACT (1997-2001) programmes.
  • The programme was conceived to provide operational support to transport and logistics entities in view of addressing market failures causing imbalances and inefficiencies in the European freight transport sector, especially due to the dominant position of the road transport.
  • Its main objectives were to reduce congestion and to improve the environmental performance of the freight transport system. It thereby contributed to an efficient and sustainable transport system which provides EU added value without having a negative impact on economic, social or territorial cohesion.
  • Most of the project types were assessed and paid on the basis of quantifiable results, such as a modal shift actually being achieved and freight traffic being avoided in the European transport network.
  • Marco Polo II allowed for a wider geographical coverage by supporting actions operated not only between the EU countries but also between at least one EU country and a nearby non-EU country.
  • A total budget of €435 million was made available to fund five types of action:
    • modal shift,
    • catalyst,
    • common learning,
    • motorways of the sea, and
    • traffic avoidance.
  • The actions were selected through yearly calls for proposals.
  • All actions funded under the Marco Polo II programme have been completed and the programme has come to its end.
  • Two executive agencies were managing the programme: Executive Agency for Competitiveness and Innovation until the end of 2013 and Innovation and Networks Executive Agency as of 2014 to its closure.
  • In 2013, the Commission published a communication on the results of the Marco Polo programmes for the period 2003 to 2010.

Eligible actions

The following actions were eligible.

  • Catalyst actions: actions aimed at overcoming significant structural barriers in the EU freight transport market which impede the efficient functioning of the markets, the competitiveness of short sea shipping, rail or inland waterway transport, and/or the efficiency of transport chains which make use of these modes. They are aimed at improving synergies in the rail, inland waterway and short sea shipping sectors, including motorways of the sea, by making better use of existing infrastructure.
  • Modal shift actions: actions aimed at shifting freight from road to short sea shipping, rail, inland waterways or a combination of modes of transport. The objective is to keep road journeys as short as possible.
  • Common learning actions: actions aimed at improving cooperation for structurally optimising working methods and procedures in the freight transport chain, taking the requirements of logistics into account.
  • Motorways of the sea: an idea first introduced by the 2001 White Paper on European transport policy. Motorways of the sea are aimed at directly shifting a proportion of freight from road to short sea shipping or a combination of short sea shipping and other modes of transport in which road journeys are as short as possible. For example, motorways of the sea could be established between Spain and France to eliminate the road traffic bottleneck in the Pyrenees.
  • Traffic avoidance actions: any innovative action aimed at integrating transport into the production logistics of businesses to avoid a large percentage of freight transport by road without adversely affecting production output or workforce capability.

Selection criteria of submitted proposals

  • Actions must be submitted by undertakings or consortia established in EU countries or participating countries, which includes candidate countries for EU accession and European Free Trade Association, European Economic Area and close non-EU countries subject to certain conditions.
  • EU financial assistance had the form of grants. For most project types, it was based on the number of tonne-kilometres transferred from the road to other means of sea or land transport or the number of vehicle-kilometres of road freight avoided. The objective was to reward high-quality projects. The EU grant could not lead to any distortions of competition.
  • The programme pays special attention to sensitive and metropolitan areas. The Commission evaluates the actions submitted, taking account of their contribution to reducing road congestion, but also their relative environmental merits and their overall sustainability.
  • EU financial assistance for the various actions is limited to a maximum of 35% of the total expenditure necessary to achieve the objectives of the action and incurred as a result of it. In the case of common learning actions, the ceiling is 50%.


For more information, see:


Intermodality: Intermodality, also known as multimodality, is a quality indicator of the level of integration between the different transport modes. More intermodality means more integration and complementarity between modes, which provides scope for a more efficient use of the transport system.


Regulation (EC) No 1692/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 2006 establishing the second Marco Polo programme for the granting of Community financial assistance to improve the environmental performance of the freight transport system (Marco Polo II) and repealing Regulation (EC) No 1382/2003 (OJ L 328, 24.11.2006, pp. 1-13)

Successive amendments to Regulation (EC) No 1692/2006 have been incorporated into the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.


Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions — The Marco Polo programme — Results and outlook (COM(2013) 278 final, 14.5.2013)

last update 10.08.2020

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