Strategies for decarbonisation of Alpine freight transport

Basic information:

The Alps are at the crossroads of European transport systems but with a very high sensitivity. Large share of long-distance freight transport on the Alpine corridors increases the challenges for decarbonisation, alternative technologies are – up to now – rather focusing on short-distance freight vehicles.

Freight transport is responsible for a large share of CO2-emissions in the EU and volumes are expected to keep rising (e.g., due to increase of global freight transport flows, changing consumption patterns (online shopping)).

The Alps as sensitive mountain environment are particularly sensitive to impacts of road freight transport. At the same time, the Alpine transit corridors connect the northern and southern parts of Europe and are key elements of the TEN-T network with its core corridors.

Up to now, all efforts to reduce road freight transport were limited. Traffic volumes are still growing on all corridors, except in Switzerland. Ambitious efforts are thus still necessary. As unharmonised solutions lead to traffic shifts between corridors, these ambitious approaches should be developed at Alpine-wide level with the objective to reduce overall transport volumes across the Alps.

Sequence of implementation steps:

The Eurovignette Directive defines the framework for road charging in Europe and includes provisions on external cost charging in general and in mountain areas in particular. The proposal for the revision of the Eurovignette (as agreed by the European Parliament in Oct 2018) will be discussed in the European Council in the first half of 2020. The discussion process on national level to prepare the Council meeting as well as the following trilogue discussions should be used for lobbying for an ambitious approach on road charging in mountain regions to set effective incentives for modal shift.

Based on existing activities of WG Transport and other networks, a further exchange on Best Practices and experiences with improving innovation in the rail and combined transport (CT) sector will be supported. The aim should be the development of an integrated Alpine-wide knowledge hub.

The ACB, in collaboration with WG transport, will launch a discussion on the future role of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles in the Alps and on how to regulate their use in the different segments of road freight transport (regional/local logistics, long-distance transit traffic, medium-distance transport between Alpine centres). Experiences of these approaches are exchanged via the ACB and the Transport Working Group.

Based on the outcomes of the ongoing revision process of the Eurovignette Directive (see step 0) and the results of the next ministerial meeting of the Zurich process, the ACB will identify options for supporting implementation of Toll Plus at national level to set additional financial incentives for modal shift.

The cap-and-trade approach Alpine Crossing Exchange (ACE) is one potential instrument to limit overall CO2-emissions of freight transport (via limitation of overall transport volumes, on the Alpine corridors). Based on experiences with measure 2b, the ACB together with WG Transport will identify options on how to politically support the implementation of the ACE (based on ongoing discussions and windows-of-opportunity at EU level).

The cap-and-trade logic of the ACE will support the financial incentives which are generated by Toll Plus in step 2b.

Further Information:

  • National administrations
  • Other networks dealing with freight transport in the Alps
  • European Commission and Parliament (specifically for ACE)
  • Implementation of a policy framework for steering modal shift (e.g., Toll Plus, ACE)
  • Strategies/ recommendations on further use of internal combustion engine vehicles on the Alpine transit corridors
  • Knowledge hub
  • Knowledge hub: implementation (yes/no) and number of users/year
  • Recommendations: Number of Alpine countries which have implemented the recommendations for regulating ICE vehicles
  • Toll Plus and ACE: qualitative description of networking/lobbying activities
  • Modal shift as general objective: development of modal shift on the Alpine transit corridors
  • Activities of WG Transport, e.g., analysis of innovative technologies for freight transport (stock-taking No. 34)
  • Zurich process
  • Different projects financed by Alpine Space Programme




Transport is one of the main causes for climate change in the Alps, almost 30% of all CO 2 -emissions are due to passenger and freight transport. The largest share of Alpine transport emissions is due to long-distance freight transport which can only be decarbonized in a common approach – hand-in- hand with partners at regional, national and European level and with the relevant stakeholders in the transport sector. Similarly, modal shift strategies for passenger transport need to recognize the specific challenges in the Alps as related to cross-border mobility, mobility needs in remote regions as well as specific demand patterns related to tourism traffic.