EU funds for interchanges

Each year, a significant budget of several million euros is available for innovations, research and demonstrations within the mobility sector. Due to the fact that the funding level is almost never 100%, the city or region also has to make a partial contribution. Requests for funding can be submitted in several ways: directly by the national government, the national agencies for the European Commission or directly to the European Commission. Every year, new working programmes are released with special focus points. Some of the better-known EU instruments are:

– Intelligent Energy Europe, with the subdivided actions entitled STEER and ELENA – the CiViTAS Initiative – European Regional Development Fund – Cohesion Fund – JESSICA (Joint European Support for Sustainable Investment in City Areas)

The European Union aims to become one of the most competitive and dynamic knowledge economies in the world. To achieve this ambitious goal, the European Union recently launched the Europe 2020 strategy, which involves a 20% reduction in hazardous emissions, a 20% reduction in the use of energy and a 20% increase in the use of renewable energy sources. These goals must be reached by 2020.

As a result of theses developments and aims, the European Union is a good source of knowledge and funding for sustainable mobility measures and innovative solutions for transport issues, including interchanges.

There many opportunities to benefit from EU funding for financing interchange-related projects. In general, when a city or region already has ideas about new interchange measures for increasing the ease of travelling for passengers, it is definitely worth seeing whether those plans can contribute to the goals set by the European Union – and possibly receive EU funding.

This tool outlines the way in which EU funding works and provides a number of reference links for further and more extensive research.

Many cities in Europe have already been involved in European projects. Some in a passive way, where they follow the examples of other demonstrating cities in order to see whether or not such a measure might be applicable to their city, others in a more active way where they operate as a demonstrating city of specific innovative measures.

This tool provides a general overview of ways for becoming involved in “Europe” and using EU Funds strategically to achieve better interchange facilities for users.

Europe offers a range of opportunities for local cities. First of all, the European Commission offers millions of euros of funding for projects related to the improvement of Mobility and Transport, especially for projects where there is a strong focus on sustainability and reducing CO2. Second, within the European Union there is extensive knowledge, for instance in the form of evaluations from previous transport measures or innovative solutions to mobility issues faced by other European cities and/or regions. Lastly, the involvement of cities in the mobility and transport policy of the European Commission can lead to the opportunity of providing their own vision on the subject at a European level and hence influence European mobility policy.

In general, there are 4 main reasons to participate as a city/region/ interchange manager at European level;

(1) to strengthen the image of local projects,

(2) to share, exchange and/or increase knowledge,

(3) to influence both EU and local policies, and

(4) receive funding

Participating in European projects that are partly financed by the EC is the most concrete form. Each year, there is a budget of several million euros available, reserved for innovations within the mobility sector, including interchanges.

The European mobility and transport policy is complex and works on various levels. Like the European Union, it is constructed from numerous institutions: the European Council, the European Parliament, the European Commission, the European Investment Bank and the European Court of Justice. The European Commission and its executive agencies, EASME and INEA (Innovation and Networks Executive Agency), set up and execute EU mobility and transport policy. See the reference section below for more information about these European bodies. There are also some links to relevant policy documents about the topics described.

Within the main theme on Mobility and Transport, there are 8 subthemes:

(1) Mobility management,

(2) Traffic Safety,

(3) Dynamic Transport Management

(4) Cycling

(5) Transport of Goods (including waterways),

(6) Trans-European Networks,

(7) Sustainable transport, and

(8) Public Transport & Chain mobility (most relevant for this tool).

Within this subtheme, in all of the relevant documents, improved connections in interchanges within public transport are mentioned as one of the key points for improving transport quality for passengers.

Funding by the European Commission is made available as co-financing. Requests for funding can be submitted in several ways: directly by the national government, the national agencies for the European Commission or directly to the European Commission through calls for tenders. Several European Commission programmes are relevant (ERDF, ESF, INTERREG, Horizon2020, Life+). The programme best suited depends on the nature of the interchange project.

JESSICA, JEREMIE, ELENA and JASPERS are programmes by the European Investment Bank and Investment Fund. Major investment programmes, funding and financing initiatives that contribute to the EU’s 20-20-20 initiative are run or result from these instruments.

One special initiative that needs to be mentioned is the CiViTAS Initiative. This initiative was set up in 2001 by DG MOVE to ensure that cities were given the opportunity to receive funding for experimental projects, including at interchanges. The finance within this initiative is not aimed at any single measure, but rather at a whole package of connected measures. Politicians who want to make mobility in their cities more sustainable can see and benefit from the experience of their colleagues in other European cities. Already 170 European cities have participated in this initiative and are connected within the CiViTAS Forum. To read more about the CiViTAS Initiative, see the reference section below.

Other EU funding mechanisms that allow for investment in sustainable transport infrastructure, including interchanges, are:

European Regional Development Fund

The ERDF aims to strengthen economic and social cohesion in the European Union by correcting imbalances between its regions. The ERDF also pays particular attention to specific territorial characteristics. ERDF action is designed to reduce economic, environmental and social problems in urban areas, with a special focus on sustainable urban development. At least 5% of ERDF resources are set aside for this field, through ‘integrated actions’ managed by cities. Areas that are naturally disadvantaged from a geographical viewpoint (remote, mountainous or sparsely populated areas) benefit from special treatment. Lastly, the outermost areas also benefit from specific assistance from the ERDF to address possible disadvantages caused by their remoteness.

Cohesion Fund  

This fund provides support for the poorer regions of Europe and helps stabilise their economies with a view to promoting growth, employment and sustainable development. The Fund contributes to financing environmental measures and trans-European transport networks – particularly high-priority projects of European interest. The Cohesion Fund may also be used to finance the priorities of the EU’s environmental protection policy. The Cohesion Fund will support infrastructure projects under the Connecting Europe Facility.

JESSICA (Joint European Support for Sustainable Investment in City Areas)

This is an initiative by the European Commission, developed in co-operation with the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the Council of the European Development Bank (CEB). It supports sustainable development and regeneration through financial engineering mechanisms.


Procedure for funding request

The procedure for applying for funding within the research (Horizon2020) and regional development (e.g. INTERREG) usually starts with the publication of a working plan or action plan by the European Commission or one of its agencies. In this document, specific actions are mentioned. Periodically the European Commission requests project proposals that tackle some of the specific actions. This process is called the ‘call for proposals’. In this call for proposals there are always clear and specific tasks on how to tackle some of the actions and under what conditions an application for funding can be made. A guide for proposals is always connected to the specific call.

In most member states, there are several local governmental agencies that can assist in the specific tasks that need to be undertaken regarding the ‘call’.

Submitting a proposal, often in collaboration with several European partners, is a long and intense process of negotiation with several of the project partners. Usually, cities that want to participate often work together with a consultancy agency that specialises in these kinds of complex proposals. These often have a broad European network and will thus be able to help identify several other partners to join in the proposal.

Within such a project there are generally three types of roles:

1)    Contract role; usually when the party takes the role of being the coordinator or demonstrator.

2)    Subcontractor; for smaller roles within the project

3)    Supporter; when no financial budget is requested or the role is the one of co-financer.

It is always wise to think carefully about the role a city, region or infrastructure manager takes, since all the projects and forms of funding differ.

There is also the possibility to take the role of the facilitator of innovations. In this case, a city or region does not participate itself in projects. There is a possibility for companies that want to innovate as ‘third parties’ to become involved or provide knowledge support. Companies that want to invest are always in search of finance. The European Union is a possibility, but co-financing is sometimes a barrier. By acting as a ‘third party’ in the project proposals in exchange for co-financing in the project, there is knowledge-building and an extension of the network.

NODES strategic objectiveContribution
Enhance accessibility and integration 0
Enhance intermodality +
Enhance liveability +
Increase safety and security conditions 0
Increase economic viability and costs efficiency +
Stimulate local economy ++
Increase environmental efficiency 0
Increase energy efficiency 0

Good practice

Since there are over 200 cities that have been involved in European projects and received funding for their part in it, it is definitely worth taking a good look for a city or region to see what are the opportunities for receiving funding. Here are some examples of interchanges that were co-financed with EU funds:

Barcelona / El Prat de Llobregat new railway station                                                                                                                                                             

Krakow improved tram stops                                                                                                                                                                   

Le Havre Park & Ride                                                                                                                                                                                       

Madrid La Fortuna Park & Ride                                                                                                                                                                                         

Sofia new metro line                                                                                                                                                                                     

Wroclaw railway station regeneration                                                                                                                                             


Application in NODES test sites – MIKRA interchange, Thessaloniki 

Applications can be made to the majority of available EU funds for the MIKRA interchange in Thessaloniki, Greece. Among the different available opportunities, the JESSICA option is considered more suitable.

When considering which projects could make use of JESSICA funding, an integrated approach is necessary. JESSICA funds could be targeted specifically at projects such as: – urban infrastructure, including transport, water/wastewater, energy, etc.; – heritage of cultural sites for tourism or other sustainable uses; – redevelopment of brownfield sites, including site clearance and decontamination; – office space for SMEs, IT and/or R&D sectors; – university buildings, including medical, biotech and other specialised facilities; – energy efficiency improvements. For the development of the Interchange described above, the core functionality of JESSICA, “Urban Development Funds” is considered applicable. An Urban Development Fund (UDF) is a fund that invests in public-private partnerships and other projects included in an integrated plan for sustainable urban development. To be eligible for JESSICA funding, the UDF will need to demonstrate, amongst other things, sufficient competence and independence of management; a comprehensive business plan and budgets for undertaking qualifying projects; as well as sound financial backing. Urban development funds will be co-managed by professionals in the banking and private sector, who should contribute financial, technical and managerial expertise and flexibility to the management of projects co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund.

In Greece, major infrastructure projects have been constructed with the support of EU funds. Hence, the administrative procedures are very well known. Specifically for JESSICA, rules on the eligibility of project expenditure are the same as those for the use of Structural Funds as a whole. Additionally, any specific national constraints from the relevant priority axis of Operational Programmes, which contribute sources to JESSICA, should be taken into account. JESSICA may allow for more flexible management of projects, but respecting eligibility rules at the same time, provided that the projects for which support is requested are always part of Integrated Plans for Sustainable Urban Development

Potential interchange performance improvement

EU funding as such will not improve the interchange. A particular feature of EU funds is their link to European shared social, environmental and economic objectives. These will help to steer the funded interchange project to be truly of interest to users and other citizens. EU countries can choose to invest some of their structural funds allocations to accelerate investment in Europe’s urban areas and interchanges


The costs of using EU funds are in general low. The only costs that have to be incurred are for writing the funding proposal.