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Impacts of Increased and Multiple Use of Inland Navigation and Identification of Tools to Reduce Impacts

European Union
Complete with results
Project Acronym
STRIA Roadmaps
Network and traffic management systems (NTM)
Transport mode
Waterborne icon
Transport sectors
Freight transport


Background & Policy context

Since 1970, the modal share of inland navigation for the movement of European freight (excluding shipping) has fallen from 12 to 7%, in the face of competition from road transport. Inland waterways are used mainly for bulk, liquid and dangerous goods, offering low cost but low speed. There is some capacity available to support increased traffic flows, and this is often seen as environmentally favourable. However, there is no clear picture of the consequences of policy actions to encourage waterborne freight.


The aim of IMMUNITY has been to evaluate the impacts of increased use of inland navigation for freight movements and to identify ways of reducing negative impacts.


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Public institution
Institution Name
European Commission; Directorate-General for Energy and Transport (DG TREN; formerly DG VII)
Type of funding
Public (EU)


IMMUNITY studied the use of major rivers and canals in The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria and Northern France. Together, these are forecast to account for 87% of the total freight movements by inland waterway in Europe in 2010. Policies and current trends were reviewed, and scenarios developed for future growth in demand and its assignment across the waterway network. The total number of vessels in the European fleet is expected to decrease with a shift to larger vessel sizes. No significant change in modal share is expected.

The project concluded that various negative impacts might occur as a consequence of high rates of growth in inland navigation, notably pollution, accidents, congestion and damage to banks - particularly above 60% growth in traffic volumes from current levels. The impacts will vary considerably according to the current traffic situation - for example, accidents might double on the Danube but increase by only 5% on the Rhine. However, this does not mean that inland navigation is unfavourable - meeting the same demand using other modes of transport could give even worse impacts.

Various measures to reduce the negative impacts of increased freight demand were evaluated using a multi-criteria procedure. The most promising measures were seen as:

  • speed limitation;
  • artificial techniques of bank consolidation;
  • limits on vessel size and sailing times;
  • information campaigns;
  • the promotion of clean alternative fuels and emissions control technologies;
  • the deployment of advanced river information systems;
  • the separation of commercial from recreational traffic.

Technical measures were favoured to deal with pollution, and regulations to deal with congestion and accidents. Implementation plans were proposed for the introduction of on-board systems to reduce fuel consumption and for stricter regulation of traffic.

Policy implications

The project has provided a better knowledge of the potential negative impacts of the expected growth of inland navigation, as input to policy-making. Moreover, it has highlighted for regional and other authorities responsible for inland waterways certain measures to improve the management of traffic.

IMMUNITY also noted the need to create a publicly available European model for forecasting European freight flows to support the formulation of transport policy. In addition, more consistent data collection is needed to give a clear picture of current traffic.


Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


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