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European Marine Motorways: The potential for transferring freight from road to high speed sea transport systems



European Marine Motorways: The potential for transferring freight from road to high speed sea transport systems

Background & policy context: 

High-speed roll-on roll-off (ro-ro) ferries are rapidly gaining in popularity. Their increased use for freight could help to alleviate excessive levels of traffic congestion, accidents and environmental pollution resulting from over-reliance on road transport. It is increasingly acknowledged that unless significant changes are forthcoming in transportation patterns and investment is made in alternative freight traffic systems, the competitiveness of Europe's industries will suffer as a result of rising transport costs.


The project is concerned with the feasibility and cost effectiveness of using high-speed ro-ro ferries on selected sea routes in Europe to divert long-haul freight traffic from the roads.

Its objective, therefore, is twofold:

  • To identify the key factors to ensure the success of fast ferry services, paying particular attention to the needs of potential users
  • To investigate the obstacles that need to be overcome in order to create a cost-effective maritime alternative to road transport

Specific tasks undertaken are as follows:

  • analysis of the existing volumes of road freight
  • identification of areas in the European Community where transfer to sea routes could be feasible
  • in-depth study of three specific routes in different regions of the Community, including a survey of attitudes and requirements of potential fast ferry users and identification of the types of commodity most likely to be transferred
  • research and specification of the technology, infrastructure, service level and operating costs required by ferry and port operators to enable them to compete successfully with road transport
  • forecast of demand for a sea ferry service on each

    selected route, and analysis of its commercial viability,

    identification of any impediments and recommendation of


  • impact evaluation with respect to consequences for road traffic flows and employment
Institution Type:
Institution Name: 
European Commission; Directorate-General for Energy and Transport (DG TREN; formerly DG VII)
Type of funding:

Five partners are involved in the project, including, in a co-ordinating role, the Edinburgh-based Napier University Business School.

The other four partners are:

  • NEA, a Dutch transport research and training organisation
  • Stena Line AB, Swedish ferry line operator and pioneer of high-speed maritime craft
  • Technicatome SA, a French engineering group
  • University of Barcelona, Spain, which contributes experience in port-related studies
Contact Name: 
A J Lindsay
Contact Email: 
Business School Napier University of Edinburgh
Sighthill Court
Edinburgh EH11 4BN
Contact country:
+44 131 455 3333
Fax Number: 
+44 131 455 3486