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The trans-European transport network policy is based on the realization that efficient and well-connected infrastructure is of vital importance for competitiveness, growth, jobs and prosperity in the European Union. Article 170 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union emphasizes the importance of transport infrastructure policy, the trans-European transport network (TEN-T), as a precondition for achieving the internal market and for the freedom to provide services.

The TEN-T policy is determined to a large extent by the European Commission's Mobility and Transport Directorate-General (DG MOVE).

Regulation (EU) No 1315/2013 on Union guidelines for the development of the trans-European transport network defines general objectives and priorities as well as specific technical requirements for the TEN-T network. The Annexes contain maps of the networks (roads, railways, waterways) and lists of the core network nodes that belong to the TEN network – maritime and inland ports, airports and intermodal terminals.

The TEN-T network has a dual-layer structure, which comprises a comprehensive and a core network. The core network is due to be completed by 2030 and the comprehensive network by 2050. The core network consists of nine corridors, which reflect the major long-distance transport operations or routes. Six of these corridors run through Germany. They are multimodal and designed to improve in particular cross-border links within the Union. The comprehensive TEN network contains all modes of transport and infrastructure for shipping and aviation. The core TEN network is part of the comprehensive network and contains its strategically most relevant nodes and connections. The whole TEN waterway network is attributed to the core network.

According to the TEN Regulation, an EU Coordinator is to be assigned to each corridor. Furthermore, there are coordinators for the Motorways of the Sea and the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS). Together with the Member States, they draw up work plans for the corridors and monitor their implementation.

The Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) Regulation (EU) No 1316/2013 defines the level to which certain measures/projects are eligible for funding. Non-cohesion states such as Germany can be funded with up to 50 per cent (for more details, see “TEN funding”).

TEN funding is only granted on application and only in response to a call for applications previously published by the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA) on behalf of the European Commission (“Call”). There is no legal entitlement to grants. Applications may be submitted by EU Member States or, with their approval, by public or private enterprises.

TEN funding

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Regulation (EU) No 1316/2013 “Connecting Europe Facility (CEF)”

The CEF is a common financial assistance regulation for all trans-European networks (transport, energy and broadband). It defines what kind of measures are eligible for funding, to what extent and under what conditions. The CEF is the most important EU funding instrument geared towards the TEN-T.

A distinction is made between grants and so-called innovative financing instruments, which are mainly designed to improve the credit rating of private investors. Since early 2020, the Blending Facility has also been available in this context as a possible financing instrument which combines CEF grants with loan financing by an implementing partner (generally EIB or – but currently not in Germany – certain national development banks).

The CEF’s funding envelope is established within the framework of the negotiations on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFR). In the current (2014-2020) Multiannual Financial Framework, the budget for transport infrastructure is approximately 24.1 billion euros. While 11.3 billion euros may be used exclusively for projects in recipient countries of the Cohesion Fund (which do not include Germany) on privileged terms, the remaining sum of 12.8 billion euros is available for projects in all Member States.

The European Commission expects that considerable investments will be required in order to complete the TEN-T core network by 2030. It estimates the costs for the core network corridors alone at around 550 billion euros. In principle, the funding approach from CEF I is to be further pursued with CEF II in the period from 2021 to 2027.

In addition, a European Fund for Strategic Investments (ESFI) was established in 2014, following an initiative by the President of the Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker. Its objective is the mobilisation of private capital. The EFSI has an investment window that is explicitly tailored to public infrastructures. Combined with other financing instruments, this approach is to become part of the future InvestEU instrument, which is planned for the period from 2021 to 2027. For further information, please refer to the website of the European Investment Bank. You will find text of the Regulation under “Further information”.

In response to the economic consequences of the COVID-19 crisis, the European Commission presented a proposal for a regulation for a Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) on 27 May 2020 as a key element of the NextEU Initiative. The RRF is to support Member States in their national reform programmes and monitor the implementation of the country-specific recommendations within the framework of the European Semester. Where the national plans to be developed by the Member States for the RRF also provide for transport infrastructure investments, this may generate additional impetus for the TEN-T. The European Commission’s proposal for the Multiannual Financial Framework in the period from 2021 to 2027 further earmarks around 100 billion euros for “Horizon Europe”, the new and probably the world’s largest research and innovation programme. In the area of “Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness”, funding is provided for the Climate, Energy and Mobility Cluster, among others.

Main objectives of the TEN Regulation

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The TEN Regulation names general objectives of the trans-European transport network, which in turn the CEF mentions as a precondition for funding. Among other things, the following must be taken into account:

  • It has to be a project of common interest. This is the case when new infrastructure is created or when existing infrastructure is rehabilitated (replacement of capital assets) or upgraded (Article 7(1)).
  • The project must meet the minimum technical standards of the comprehensive or core network and it has to be economically viable.
  • The project must have European added value (Art. 3(d)) (value in addition to that created for the individual Member State).
  • In addition, a project of common interest must have at least two of the following four objectives (Art. 4):
  • strengthening the cohesion of the Union;
  • increasing efficiency (e.g. removal of bottlenecks, filling of gaps, cost-efficient use of innovative technical and operational strategies);
  • increasing sustainability (e.g. security of fuel supply, CO2 reduction);
  • providing benefits to infrastructure users.

Main objectives (funding priorities) of the CEF

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In addition to the above mentioned preconditions, the following funding priorities apply to the transport sector (CEF, Article 4(2)):

  • Removing bottlenecks, enhancing rail interoperability and improving cross-border sections.
  • Ensuring sustainable and efficient transport systems in the long run, introducing innovative low-carbon and energy-efficient transport technologies.
  • Optimising the integration of transport modes and enhancing the interoperability of transport services.

Annex I of the CEF lists projects on the core network which are to be given priority in funding:

  • “Horizontal Priorities”, i. e. innovative management and services, new technologies and innovation.
  • Individual projects on the nine core network corridors.
  • Other pre-identified sections on the core network.

The European Commission plans to focus up to 95 per cent of the funding on these core network projects and priorities.

Funding rates

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Article 10 names possible maximum levels of funding. An overview:

ProjectsFieldMaximum funding
StudiesAll modes of transport50 %
Railway projectsCross-border40 %
Removal of bottlenecks30 %
Others20 %
Waterway ProjectsCross-border40 %
Removal of bottlenecks40 %
Others20 %
Road ProjectsCross-border sections10 %
Rail and road links to ports and airports20 %
Development of ports, multimodal platforms and freight services20 %
Motorways of the Sea30 %
Measures to reduce rail freight noise20 %
Traffic management systems (rail/air/water/road)ERTMS50 %
SESAR (ground / vehicle)50 % / 20 %
RIS, VTMIS (shore / vehicle)50 % / 20 %
ITS20 %
Safe HGV parking areas on the core network20 %
New technologies and innovations20 %

Grant application

The Federal Government’s position

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The Federal Government supports an integrated European transport system with intermodal solutions. Modern transport infrastructure and modes of transport are an indispensable requirement for a dynamic economy, and efficient infrastructure is a clear locational advantage. Conversely, a neglected infrastructure will become a risk and a burden for growth and employment. The transport system must also meet environmental, economic and societal challenges and take into account our citizens' interests and environmental concerns. Mobility as a whole is to become more modern, more efficient, less noisy and more sustainable.

A single mode of transport alone will be unable to handle the forecast growth in traffic. Against this background, the aim of the Federal Government's transport policy is to safeguard the capacity and efficiency of all modes of transport and, by interlinking them in an optimum manner, to ensure that they can deploy their inherent strengths in the overall system.

The Federal Government has clearly defined its priorities for the years ahead in the new 2030 Federal Transport Infrastructure Plan (FTIP) and the upgrading acts that entered into force in December 2016:

  • prioritising investments in replacements and renewals for all modes of transport;
  • prioritising the completion of ongoing projects in upgrading and new construction;
  • removal of bottlenecks on major transport routes and at vital nodes.

The FTIP contains more than 1,000 individual projects (49 % road, 42 % railways, 9 % waterways) with a total level of funding of about 270 billion euros. Here, the priorities of the Federal Government and the European Commission are almost identical: For instance, almost all major upgrading and new construction projects are on railways on core network corridors. Furthermore, the approach of the European Commission to focus investments (grants) on upgrading the corridors coincides with the FTIP’s priority on upgrading the busy nodes and major transport routes.

This is why the Federal Government supports the European Commission in developing and establishing the trans-European network.