Freight transport in Europe has been growing more rapidly over the last 10 years than the EU-15 GDP, and even more than the mobility of persons. This has many causes, but certainly one is the opening up of the transport market, which occurred at the same time. Major drawbacks to the European transport system are the growth of congestion, and the harmful effects to the environment and public health. In addition, the challenges of enlargement are compelling us to make new choices in order to promote transport policy with a more balanced, smarter, and environmentally lower impact to mobility systems.
A radical shift in the mentality and behaviour of actors in transport is needed. Intermodal aspects must be introduced at all phases of transport policy and planning, based on cost-effective, implementable research and technological development. Efficient logistics and transport operations require a harmonious flow of goods and traffic throughout both the transport and logistics chains. While in the past, infrastructure investment programmes were developed from a single mode approach, global logistics operations today favour the integration of modes and impose new priorities in the decision-making process.
The logistics shifts towards global sourcing and centralised inventories demand larger geographic coverage and smooth international transport, without counterproductive delays in the network and at nodes. Substantial research has been developed in the last five years in the area of emerging logistical requirements and their impact in freight transport and intermodality. It is therefore necessary to bring together authoritative individuals with decision making capabilities to contribute significant advice, and to influence the stakeholders in their planning of research and technology programmes, i.e., the European Intermodal Research Advisory Council (EIRAC).
CAESAR was the Coordination Action aiming at fostering the creation of a new and common vision of intermodal research in Europe, by achieving the following objectives:
- to establish the EIRAC;
- to support the EIRAC to define their Terms of Reference;
- to support the EIRAC to draw their Strategic Research Agenda for Intermodal Transport and Logistics, in conjunction with business scenarios;
- to set-up and run the EIRAC Communication Strategy, to liaise with mode-specific Advisory Councils;
- to facilitate the EIRAC to define the Implementation Plan of their Strategic Research Agenda.
To achieve these objectives, CAESAR focussed the attention on real industry needs, relevant business scenarios, and then would identify and focus on five mainstreams for innovation. At the proposal stage, a preliminary analysis shown that the most important were:
- interoperability between modes;
- socio economic issues;
- education and training.
The Workplan of CAESAR was organised into four main Work Packages (WP), coordinated by a proper Project Management Work Package. Each WP was organised into different tasks, aiming at fulfilling the different achievement expected by the Coordinated Action. The Coordinated Action was planned to last 30 months. Each single Work package was paced by different milestones, to guarantee the check of the work completion of each activity and task, and to synchronise the progress among the different WP.
CAESAR Work Packages were:
WP1 (Management Activities), WP3 (Setting the Strategic Research Agenda), and WP 5 (Communication and Dissemination Strategy) lasted the whole CAESAR lifetime, accompanying the coordination action all along its path and development. WP2 (Establishment of the EIRAC) lasted the first 12 months only, to set up the Plenary and sign the Terms of Reference (first 4 months), and to establish the Mirror Group of National Representatives (until month 12). The implementation strategy (WP4) to make the content of the Strategic Research Agenda living lasted from month four until the end of the CA, instead.
CAESAR started by establishing the EIRAC Plenary. It was planned that the Plenary is stable and signs the Terms of Reference at the end of month four, at the First Plenary Meeting. During the same event, the Support Group was appointed, as the pillars for research were selected, the WG were settled and the relevant leaders nominated by the Plenary itself.
The establishment of Mirror Group took eight months longer. Starting in month five, the work of the EIRAC (i.e., the Plenary and the Support Group) proceeded, facilitated by the secretarial work of CAESAR partners until the end of the action lifetime.
The work of the Catalyst Group, at this very early stage, was to catalyse attention around the EIRAC initiative instead, and to act as propeller for the EIRAC growth.
During CAESAR lifetime, the EIRAC secretariat shall be offered to CAESAR partners. In analogy with other mode-specific Advisory Councils, the EIRAC shall be governed by the Terms of Reference, would include the structure of the Council, its decision process, schedules of meetings, etc.
As far as the preparation of the Strategic Research Agenda was concerned, this work was carried on by the EIRAC with the secretarial support of the CAESAR partners. The Support Group outlined a vision of Intermodal Transport Business by the year 2020, and then the
The establishment of EIRAC - European Intermodal Research Advisory Council - was the main result of this initiative, with the aim of bringing together the stakeholders of the Intermodal sector. The EIRAC was established at the end of month four of the CA lifetime, and it prepared, in accordance with the scheme provided in the description of WP 3, the Strategic Research Agenda of Intermodal Transport. CAESAR managed the creation of EIRAC after the CA completion. The details are specified in the Terms of Reference signed at the establishment of the European Intermodal Research Advisory Council; however, EIRAC is composed of the following entities:
- the Plenary,
- the Support group,
- the Mirror group,
- the Secretariat.
Supported by CAESAR, EIRAC prepared a vision of intermodal transport in 2020, and issued the strategic documents preparing the achievement of the vision: the Strategic Intermodal Research Agenda 2020 (SIRA), and the Implementation Plan. The SIRA contains the drivers for change (i.e., research and innovation accompanied by proper policies, codes of conducts and supporting instruments), whereas the Implementation Plan translates the SIRA elements into practical topics to materialise the Vision of Intermodal Transport 2020.
The SIRA has been set in the context of the current economic, societal and environmental challenges Europe was facing. Therefore, it cannot be a rigid long-term agenda; updates and new releases are needed, taking into account the evolving context. Moreover, some selected aspects may need to be analysed more in depth, by considering factors having strong influences on the chosen priorities.
CAESAR was a Coordination Action to support the creation and works of an Advisory Council. Therefore, the project was more policy than technically oriented.
The SIRA and the Implementation Plan have been handed over to the European Commission (i.e., DG TREN, DG RTD, and DG INFOSO), to promote the adoption of their content into the work programmes of the 7th FWP, and they have been delivered to the Member States through the Mirror Group representatives, for national research and public/private investment programmes. Other important implications of the results are the close contacts created between the EIRAC members and the EC for policy development. One can mention e.g. the participation of EIRAC members on the preparation of the new release of the directive for the European Intermodal Loading Unit, or the preparation of the Logistics Action Plan of DG TREN. As a result of its ongoing work, EIRAC will provide further support to policy development by cooperating with the governmental institutions in order to prepare directives/regulations/laws, or by proposing common codes of conduct suitable for the improvement of the effectiveness of logistics through co-modality and sustainable (intermodal) transport solutions.