This publication is the result of the work of many teams working within the framework of the COMBINE Interreg BSR project in the years 2019-2021. The ambition of the authors was to present as comprehensively as possible the issues of organization, operation, and development of CT with particular emphasis on the BSR. Of course, the e-book could not lack references to the pan-European experience of the industry, or even worldwide, as it is a system of vessels connected very often by networks of rail and sea services. Moreover, the technological and organizational achievements are quite quickly translated into global dissemination.

A number of key conclusions can be drawn from the analysis presented in this e-book, which can then be translated into fundamental recommendations for decision-makers who will shape the future of combined transport, especially in the BSR.

Firstly, it is necessary to define uniformly the sector we are talking about. Experiences vary widely and lead either to a misunderstanding of the fundamental element which determines whether a process can and/or should be classified as combined transport, or to the exclusion of certain phenomena or services from this type of transport. This is particularly important when it comes to implementing programs to promote the development of combined transport by means of financial or non-financial incentives for haulers and operators. To this end, it is necessary to implement as soon as possible the new Directive on Combined Transport, which would clearly define the conceptual scope of the technologies and transport processes involved in the application of these technologies within the framework of CT. In this respect, the authors suggest a wide coverage of door-to-door or part of door-to-door unitized cargo transport services within the EU using at least two different modes of transport without the need to transship the goods themselves between the modes. This definition should therefore include both land-sea and land transport: rail-road or trimodal, including inland waterways. In this connection, future legislation should also deal with the interface between the concepts of combined transport and intermodal transport, since current practice more often uses the concept of combined transport to refer to rail-road transport, and intermodal transport to refer to sea-land transport. However, both can apply to the same logistic chain, but in a different scope. Rail-road transport carried out by European operators to/from a seaport, where the maritime leg is taken over by a third party, can be considered as combined transport, where the European operator’s final leg is a port terminal or its immediate hinterland. This is why we are seeing a slow blurring of the boundaries between intermodal and combined transport, which is helping to unify the terminology of the industry. The definition of combined transport itself should be followed by uniform definitions of terminals and combined transport operators. Furthermore, the methodology of statistical data collection should be standardized so that it will ultimately be possible to create a universal system for statistical reporting of the activities of operators, both in terms of transport and transshipment. National transport statistical systems should also be adapted in order to eliminate the sometimes-considerable discrepancies that arise. It often happens that CT in the aggregate of operators is significantly different from that reported by administrative bodies or rail infrastructure managers. Without such a system it is currently impossible to create common conditions for the development of CT on a level playing field.

Common statistics will make it possible to correctly capture both the quantitative and qualitative dimensions of the market for CT services. This, in turn, will translate into comparability and scalability of actions and investments that should or could be undertaken to improve the operating conditions and development of CT operators. This should create a common basis for an EU CT Strategy for the development of CT, not only as a separate economic sector but, above all, as one of the key tools of transport policy, especially in supporting the objective of shifting the desired volume of freight from road to waterborne and rail transport. In the long term, this should make it possible to develop a strategy to move the transport sector towards zero-emissions by 2050, as set out in the New Green Deal.

In this context, it is necessary to draw up a road map for achieving this zero-emission status. An attempt to this was proposed in the Chapter 7. It would be helpful to draw up, on the basis of the abovementioned strategy, specific objectives, as well as a mission and vision for the development of combined transport for the future position and function of combined transport in the trade of the EU.

On this basis, a master plan should be drawn up for the individual EU Member States and the EU as a whole to achieve the desired objectives, indicating what needs to be prepared, carried out and implemented in order to make the desired objectives feasible and achievable.

In this way, a future EU CT development policy will be defined, which aims to achieve zero-emissions and, in so doing, to fulfil the functions set by the White Paper 2011 in the field of freight transport.

The authors hope that this publication will have a positive influence on the above-mentioned path of future development of the combined transport sector, whose potential and technical possibilities are certainly capable of significantly improving the sustainable transport development path in the EU. At the same time, they are aware that they have not exhausted the topic with this publication, but have only highlighted areas in which there is already a lot going on and which are important from a functional and legal point of view.

To the end, the authors would like to thank all who have supported the COMBINE project by their knowledge, data sharing and discussions, and the Interreg BSR to enable the whole consortium to perform the project despite the tough period from the COVID-19 pandemic.