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The general aim of the Marco Polo programme is to help companies introduce services that shift freight off the road and on to more environmentally friendly modes such as short-sea shipping, rail and inland waterways. This support is available during the high-risk start-up phase of the projects. The top-ranked projects in the competitive evaluation process will be offered grant contracts of up to five years.

However, only projects capable of demonstrating viable non-road freight transport services (projects that can survive on the market even after they cease receiving EU financial support) have a chance of getting a grant. The call is open to applications for five types of actions: modal shift actions (which will shift freight from the road to short sea shipping, rail, inland waterways or a combination of modes of transport), highly innovative catalyst actions (which are aimed at overcoming structural market barriers in European freight transport), motorways of the sea actions (which shift freight from road to short sea shipping or a combination of short sea shipping and other modes of transport, offering very large-volume, highfrequency intermodal door-to-door services), traffic avoidance actions (which integrate transport into production logistics, reducing freight transport demand by road), and common learning actions (which will encourage the improvement of cooperation and sharing of knowhow between stakeholders in the freight logistics sector).

The budget for the 2010 call (64 million Euros) should suffice to support 35 projects. Among the new conditions of the latest call for proposals are lower eligibility thresholds and simpler and faster procedures.

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