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Community guidelines for the development of the trans-European transport network

This summary has been archived and will not be updated, because the summarised document is no longer in force or does not reflect the current situation.

Community guidelines for the development of the trans-European transport network

The creation of the trans-European transport network is promoting the smooth operation of the internal market and strengthening economic and social cohesion. The objectives, priorities and broad lines of action and the projects which implement them are key aspects of this network.


Decision No 1692/96/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 July 1996 on Community guidelines for the development of the trans-European transport network [See amending acts].


The objectives of the trans-European transport network (TEN-T) are to:

  • ensure the mobility of persons and goods;
  • offer users high-quality infrastructure;
  • include all modes of transport;
  • allow the optimal use of existing capacities;
  • be interoperable in all its components;
  • be economically viable;
  • cover the whole territory of the European Union (EU);
  • allow for its extension to the Member States of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), the countries of central and eastern Europe and the Mediterranean countries.

The trans-European transport network comprises infrastructures (roads, railways, waterways, ports, airports, navigation aids, intermodal freight terminals and product pipelines), together with the services necessary for the operation of these infrastructures.

The priority measures concern:

  • completion of the connections needed to facilitate transport;
  • optimisation of the efficiency of existing infrastructure;
  • achievement of interoperability of network components;
  • integration of the environmental dimension into the network.

Projects meeting the above criteria are considered to be of common interest.

Characteristics of the various transport networks

Characteristics of the road network:

  • it comprises motorways and high-quality roads and will be supplemented by new or adapted links;
  • it comprises infrastructure for traffic management and user information, based on active cooperation between traffic management systems at European, national and regional levels;
  • it guarantees users a high, uniform and continuous level of services, comfort and safety.

Characteristics of the rail network:

  • it comprises the high-speed network and conventional lines;
  • it offers users a high level of quality and safety thanks to its continuity and interoperability and thanks to a harmonised command and control system.

Characteristics of the inland waterway network and inland ports:

  • this system comprises a network consisting of rivers and canals, a network consisting of branch canals, port infrastructure and efficient traffic management systems;
  • the technical specifications correspond at least to IV.

Ports provide the link between sea transport and other modes of transport. They provide equipment and services for passengers and goods (ferry services, etc.).

The motorways of the sea network improves existing maritime links and establishes new viable, regular and frequent links for the transport of goods between Member States. It concentrates flows of freight on sea-based logistical routes in such a way as to reduce road congestion and improve access to outlying and island regions and states.

The airport network consists of airports of common interest situated within the EU which are open to commercial air traffic and comply with certain criteria. The core of the network comprises the international and EU connecting points which provide links within the EU and between the EU and the rest of the world. These connecting points are gradually being linked to the high-speed lines of the rail network. In addition, the regional components of the network facilitate access to the core of the network or help to open up outlying and isolated regions.

The combined transport network comprises railways and inland waterways which, combined where appropriate with initial and/or terminal road haulage, permit the long-distance transport of goods between all Member States. It also comprises installations permitting transhipment between the different networks.

The information and management network concerns coastal and port shipping services, vessel positioning systems, reporting systems for vessels transporting dangerous goods, and communication systems for distress and safety at sea.

The air traffic control network comprises the aviation plan (air space reserved for general aviation, aviation routes and aviation aids), the traffic management system and the air traffic control system.

The positioning and navigation systems network comprises the satellite positioning and navigation systems and the systems to be defined in the future European Radio Navigation Plan.

A limited number of new priority projects

Following the recommendations of 2003 from the Van Miert high-level group on the TEN-T, the Commission compiled a new list of 30 priority projects to be launched before 2010. Total estimated cost: 225 billion euros. The list takes full account of the recent enlargement and will establish more sustainable mobility plans by concentrating investment on rail and waterway transport. All 30 priority projects are declared to be of European interest so as to speed up the completion of the cross-border sections. They are:

Appointment of a European coordinator

To facilitate the coordinated implementation of the priority projects, the Commission may designate, by agreement with the Member States concerned, a person to be known as the European coordinator. This person will act in the name and on behalf of the Commission for a particular project or a major axis. He/she will draw up a working plan for his/her activities in consultation with those concerned, as well as a report on progress achieved. In order to carry out his/her work he/she will consult the Member States, regional and local authorities, operators and users of the means of transport in question, and representatives of civil society.

A new mechanism to promote motorways of the sea

Motorways of the sea are alternative routes which should relieve bottlenecks on land. One of the 30 new priority projects is intended to concentrate flows of goods through a limited number of ports. The Member States are jointly invited to establish transnational maritime links on the basis of invitations to tender.

The Decision also places seaports in one of three categories:

  • Category A comprises seaports of international importance with a total annual traffic volume of not less than 1.5 million tonnes of freight or 200 000 passengers.The list of Category A seaports (Annex 1) comprises Europe, the Baltic Sea, the North Sea, the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean;
  • Category B concerns ports of EU importance with a total annual traffic volume of not less than 0.5 million tonnes of freight or between 100 000 and 200 000 passengers;
  • Category C includes ports providing regional access situated in island, peripheral or outermost regions.

A Committee on the Trans-European Transport Network is set up at the Commission.

The Commission reports every two years on the implementation of the guidelines described in this Decision. Every five years, it evaluates progress made in setting up the network and states whether the guidelines need to be adapted.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Decision No 1692/96/EC



OJ L 228 of 9.9.1996.

Amending act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Decision No 1346/2001/EC



OJ L 185 of 6.7.2001.

Decision No 884/2004/EC



OJ L 167 of 30.4.2004.

Regulation (EC) No 1791/2006



OJ L 363 of 20.12.2006.

Successive amendments and corrections to Decision No 1692/96/EC have been incorporated into the basic text. This consolidated version is for reference only.


Commission working document – Consultation on ‘The future trans-European transport network policy’ [COM(2010) 212 final – not published in the Official Journal]. Following the Green Paper published in February 2009 on the future development of the trans-European transport network (TEN-T), this second consultation is aimed at refining the available policy options that have appeared in previous contributions from EU institutions and stakeholders. The Commission states that the TEN-T should support the development of an integrated European transport system that better responds to environmental challenges. In doing so it will provide inter-modal solutions, better serving the citizens and supporting the EU’s industrial competitiveness. The consultation looks at the methodology for TEN-T planning in a dual layer approach, the implementation of the TEN-T and the legal and institutional framework of the TEN-T policy review.

Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 21 March 2007 entitled 'Trans-European networks: Towards an integrated approach' [COM(2007) 135 final – not published in the Official Journal].

Report from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions – Trans-European transport network – Report on the implementation of the guidelines 2002-2003 pursuant to article 18 of Decision 1692/96/EC [COM(2007) 94 final – not published in the Official Journal].

This report takes stock of the development of the trans-European transport network in 2002 and 2003. It notes an increase in investment (mainly from public sources) compared with the previous two years; however, these estimates may be seen as misleading when Member State policies are taken into account. The report envisages the completion of the priority projects by 2020.

Last updated: 27.07.2010