INVEST IN EUROPE'S INLAND WATERWAYS, BUSINESS GROUP URGES EC COMMISSION

INVEST IN EUROPE'S INLAND WATERWAYS, BUSINESS GROUP URGES EC COMMISSION

European business is pressing for massive investments in the Continent's inland waterway system.

The European Community's employers' association, Unice, has asked the European Commission to start immediately on developing waterways to make them more attractive to industrial and commercial shippers.Unice said waterways development is essential to meet the expected growth in transport demand in the European Community and to help divert traffic from Europe's congested highways.

The employers' group and the EC's inland waterways union, UINF, sent a position paper to Karel van Miert, EC transport commissioner, calling for major investments to remove bottlenecks and plug missing links in the waterways system.

The short-term priority is to improve the Mittelland Canal, which connects the Port of Hamburg to the Rhine River and the North-South link from the Netherlands to the Paris basin and Lyon, France's second-largest industrial city.

Improvement of the Rhine-Main-Danube link is a medium-term goal, Unice and UNIF said.

The paper said the final aim should be the expansion of the canal network along the river Elbe upstream from Magdeburg, Germany, the Rhine-Rhone link and the Mittelland and Twenthe waterways in the Netherlands.

The drive to boost the use of inland waterways coincides with a determined effort by the EC Commission to switch freight from the roads to more environmentally friendly modes of transport.