Launch of the project "Upper Rhine, a Connected Corridor"

On 26 November 2012, a special event was held to launch the project: Upper Rhine Ports: A Connected Corridor!. For the first time, nine inland ports in a tri-national river basin, are working in a concerted manner to further their development, with the support of the European Commission, under the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T). More than 50 representatives from French, German, Swiss and international institutions accepted the invitation from Catherine Trautmann, Chairperson of the Port Autonome de Strasbourg, regarding the project initiative.


The ports of Strasbourg, Colmar, Kehl, Karlsruhe, Ludwigshafen, Mannheim and the Rhein-Ports consortium (which includes Basel, Mulhouse and Weil am Rhein), represented by their respective directors, presented, in tandem with the European Commission, their shared ambitions to promote the development of an efficient multimodal service for goods transport in the Upper Rhine.

The ports' initiative is a factor that will strengthen cross-border cooperation and represents the fruit of several years of regular discusions between the ports, under the aegis of the Upper Rhine Conference. Participation in the event by numerous French, German and Swiss partners (ministries, local authorities, infrastructure management bodies, consular chambers) can be explained by the now confirmed recognition of the strategic role of the inland ports in the future of the economic development of the tri-national region. Indeed, they are important employment catchment areas and places where there is a concentration of various complementary activities (transport, industry, logistics). The ports' joint approach is a response not only to the ambitious objectives of the modal shift in promoting alternatives to road transport in the coming five to ten years but also the enhancement of the attractiveness and economic competitiveness of the Upper Rhine.

The European Commission now recognises the inland (and no longer just the maritime) ports as essential players in the implementation of an ambitious transport policy in terms of modal shift and multimodal amenities. It is in this context that it granted the project eight hundred and fifty thousand euro in European loans. To complete the implementation of the “main priority networks” of the TEN-T in which the inland ports are included, the Commission has identified "nine multimodal corridors". The Upper Rhine is an essential link in the Rotterdam-Genoa corridor, but it is also situated at the intersection of three other freight corridors. Richard Ferrer (representing the European Commission) has insisted on the importance of this project to the Commission in the implementation of the European transport corridors. The fact that the river ports are included in the map of priority transport networks is of prime importance for the future in that this recognition gives them access to specific funding opportunities: in this instance, the "interconnection mechanism", a fund devoted to transport infrastructure projects for the period 2014-2020.

To make use of these investment loans, the ports must first identify their needs according to the traffic development scenarios expected in coming years. This analysis of the ports' specifics and needs lies at the very core of the TEN-T project. Each port has its own development projects, as is the case, for instance, for Strasbourg with the future business park and the container terminal in Lauterbourg or for the Swiss ports with the new container terminal in Basel. The goal is not to take traffic from the neighbouring ports but actually to generate new business and allow the entire Upper Rhine basin to benefit from it. Each port or grouping of ports in the consortium presents particular characteristics: size, type of traffic, companies based there, rail destinations offered, facilities… Although healthy competition exists, of course, between these ports, there are also and perhaps especially synergies and complementarities that could be developed.

On completion of the project, the Upper Rhine Ports have undertaken to produce a joint investment master plan for the coming five to ten years. But the efficacy of the connections and the range of transport options on offer does not always mean going by way of new infrastructures. It also relies quite simply on better cooperation between players. This TEN-T project will thus provide a platform for exchanging ideas and points of view not only for the ports but also for all institutional and economic players in order to work towards concrete, pragmatic solutions that foster the improvement of the range of multimodal transport options on offer in the Upper Rhine and further afield.

There is no shortage of subjects to be covered and the ports' directors have paid particular attention to developing the following:

  • Development of river and rail connections between ports and with sea ports
  • Interfaces and complementarities between railway and waterway
  • Question of interoperability and crossing the border by train
  • Adaptations needed to deal with the growth in containerised traffic
  • Striking a balance between city and port and inland ports and sea ports
  • Enlargement of the range of transport options on offer


So, although the project does have a strategic and prospective aim, therefore, it will mean adopting as close a relationship as possible with the needs of the territory, involving every player in the transport chain, to reflect and test with them the best service provision and "connection" scenarios. Catherine Trautmann concluded thus: "Especially in periods of economic crisis, the ports have fully understood that falling back on one's own devices was not the correct strategy and that they should, instead, have developed closer relationships to be more competitive and attractive together."