An efficient transport system based on intermodal transfer is a prerequisite for European competitiveness. However, intermodal transport is far from achieving the market share, which the EU Member States desire. Transport by trucks continues to dominate the freight sector. Small and medium-sized transport enterprises (SMEs) in particular, which provide up to 80% of European goods transport, tend to use road-based transport exclusively.
Thus, against this background, it is important that improvements in the conditions for intermodal transport are not directed solely towards the large transport enterprises, but also towards the small and medium-sized operators.
The FREIA project sought to improve the accessibility of European freight villages and their related networks for transport SMEs. Specific objectives were to identify needs for facilities and information system flows through market surveys, and to provide a web-based guide to European freight villages.
One of the main achievements of the FREIA project has been the development of general guidelines and principles for the implementation of a freight village information system.
FREIA found that intermodal transport is being increasingly considered by SMEs as an acceptable and relevant alternative but transport costs are a crucial factor and a barrier to change. Many SMEs require commercial services (booking, information, reservation etc.), which can be located in European freight centres. Within such centres, the main requirement among SMEs is for improved physical facilities such as office and storage space and access to electronic information. In order to make the market for intermodal transport more transparent, FREIA recommended a classification system of freight villages according to the services and the facilities provided.
The FREIA project supports policy actions by the European Commission aimed at integrating SMEs into the intermodal transport system. SMEs play an important role in the transport sector and account for almost 70% of total company turnover within the EU. In order to retain their competitiveness, FREIA recommended that specific actions should be considered to prepare SMEs for the substantial changes they have to face due to intermodality. These actions may include education, training and information on market developments, as well as the application of new technologies, providing easy access to information systems and services.