The European Union (EU) Commission is proposing an ambitious transportation that will transform the way goods and people travel. The proposal calls for investments in infrastructure as well as changes in systems and policies.
According to EU Commission white paper, the changes will take place over the next 40 years in an effort to cut greenhouse gases (GHGs) by 60 percent by 2050. The paper calls for major shifts in transportation within and between cities.
For instance, the commission recommends:
- cities to completely phase out petrol cars
- shifting to rail or water 50% of all passenger and freight road transport currently making intercity journeys of more than 300km (186 miles)
- airlines to increase their use of sustainable low-carbon fuels to 40%
- shipping to cut 40% off its carbon emissions
In order to accomplish these goals road, rail, air and water transport modes will need to be “seamlessly linked”. Creating more efficient and coordinated modes of transportation. Right now there are numerous regulations, requirements, and systems being used within the EU making transportation cumbersome, time consuming and expensive.
Each EU country has its own safety certifications for train rolling stock that represent a major barrier to expanding international passenger and freight services. Estimated cost of each national recertification is between €1-4 million, and can take up to two years.
Source: European Railway Agency
The Thalys high-speed train through France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands has to adapt to seven different signalling systems. The EU currently uses seven gauge sizes and seven types of electric currents (with different voltages and frequencies, and alternating or direct current, etc).
Gauges and currents: Energy and Transport in Europe – Statistical Pocketbook 2010
Today international hauliers need in their vehicle the Eurovignette, 5 different national vignettes and 8 different tags and tolling contracts if they wish to drive on all European tolled roads without stopping at tollbooths.
Source: European Commission
In 2008, close to 9 million flights crossed EU airspace, or an average 25 000 flights a day. In the EU, 27 air traffic management systems add an average 49 km to each journey.
Removing barriers in the EU and opening up markets to competition has had a profound impact. Air transport liberalisation has boosted the number of air passengers and routes served. The EU now has 20 low-cost carriers, representing 40.2% of the internal EU market – in 1990 there were none. Scheduled passenger carriers have risen from 135 to 152, and the average number of routes inside the Union has increased by 140% from 1 680 to 4 000.
Source: Official Airline Guide database
An EU-registered ship travelling from Antwerp to Rotterdam can require the same amount of paperwork as a ship travelling to Rotterdam from Panama.
EU laws will bring the number of freight train tail lights and plates down from 18 to two, making it easier for trains to cross borders.
Source: Draft Commission Decision concerning the technical specification for interoperability relating to the ‘operation and traffic management’ subsystem of the trans-European conventional rail system
The trans-European transport networks (TEN-T), which represent 25 800 km of key European corridors, have nine north-south connections linking the continent, but only four east-west ones.
Source: TENtec Information System
Urban access policies have been introduced to many cities across the EU. However, the various authorities use their own criteria and enforcement means: out of 58 urban access schemes, 42.6% charge a daily rate, 25.9% charge per trip, while the others don’t charge anything at all.
Simplifying these systems and having one uniform system across all the countries would help move people and goods more efficiently and more cheaply across cities and countries.
All of this will require costly infrastructure changes.
A well-performing transport network requires substantial resources. The cost of EU infrastructure development to match transport demand has been estimated at over € 1.5 trillion for 2010-2030. An additional investment of a trillion euros in vehicles, equipment and charging infrastructure is needed to achieve emission reduction goals. The completion of the TEN-T network requires about €550 billion by 2020, out of which some € 215 billion are for the removal of the main bottlenecks.
The use of cars in and between cities also present challenges.
Congestion costs Europe about 1% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) every year.
Sources: TREMOVE and PRIMES-TREMOVE transport models (Appendix 5 of the Impact Assessment accompanying the White Paper, SEC(2011) 358).
In London, 20% of commuters spend more than two hours a day travelling to and from work, which adds up to one working day a week. In Germany, 37% spend one hour a day commuting.
EU sustainable transport solutions will increasingly need to be exported around the world: EU drivers currently own one third of the world’s 750 million cars. The IEA projects that by 2050 car numbers worldwide will increase to more than 2.2 billion, with the sharpest growth in emerging economies
While the white paper lays out an ambitious plan for improving transportation and reducing GHGs, not everyone is behind all the goals. As Scientific American reported the United Kingdom’s transport minister, Norman Baker, told the BBC, “"We will not be banning cars from city centers any more than we will be having rectangular bananas.”
What Minister Baker may have forgotten is that it isn’t all cars that will be “banned” from cities, just those running on fossil fuels. Indeed, with the expected increase in the number of electric vehicles on the roads, gas and diesel vehicles, may have long disappeared by 2050.
While many may fault parts of the plan or consider it too ambitious, the white paper does lay out a coherent and unified plan for reaching the EU’s environmental goals as well as improving all methods of transportation.
Illustration from the European Commission Mobility and Transport