25.8.2011   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

C 248/31


Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on ‘Sustainable development of the EU transport policy and planning for TEN-T’ (exploratory opinion at the request of the forthcoming Polish presidency)

2011/C 248/05

Rapporteur: Mr KRAWCZYK

On 30 November 2010 the forthcoming Polish presidency of the European Union decided to consult the European Economic and Social Committee, under Article 304 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, on

Sustainable development of the EU transport policy and planning for TEN-T

(exploratory opinion).

The Section for Transport, Energy, Infrastructure and the Information Society, which was responsible for preparing the Committee’s work on the subject, adopted its opinion on 24 May 2011.

At its 472nd plenary session, held on 15 and 16 June (meeting of 15 June), the European Economic and Social Committee adopted the following opinion by 154 votes with 7 abstentions.

1.   Conclusions and recommendations

1.1

The EESC has always supported the trans-European transport networks program and it reaffirms its support for this program again. However it notes that the needs of the enlarged Europe in the field of transport infrastructure have grown and some thought has to be given to the matter of how to adapt existing policy and instruments of its implementation to the forthcoming challenges.

1.2

According to the Committee the ultimate goal is the formulation of a transport policy that, when it is implemented, a social and economic cohesion is achieved, by combining the ambitions of economic growth in the form of increased transport, (according to the Commission traffic will grow by about 20 % between 2005 and 2020), cohesion, job creation and sustainable development with restricted financial sources.

1.3

But in practice the Committee has to conclude that, regrettable, from the 92 projects that were selected under the 2007 call for proposals fitting in the Mid-term review of the 2007-2013 multi-annual work programme., accounting for approximately two-thirds of the total TEN-T budget (EUR 5.3 billion out of EUR 8.0 billion), only a small number are located in the new Member States.

1.4

The Committee would like to stress, that if the purpose of the EU is to create a real integrated single transport market in Europe and to continue cohesion policy, a radical change is necessary in the choice of the networks. Member States should propose networks for TEN-T on the basis of clear criteria set up by the Commission.

1.5

The Committee recommends that, because of the transport sector’s current dependence on fossil fuels, the future European transport policy must pursue the following four main objectives:

the promotion of low-carbon modes of transport,

energy efficiency,

security, complexity and independence of supply, and

the reduction of traffic congestion.

1.6

In this respect the Committee advises selecting the greenest and best renewable fuels, which bring down CO2 exhaust, making use of co-modality, introducing the concept of internalisation of external costs for all modes of transport. The EESC is concerned about the financial restraints for the TEN-T projects on European level which might create insufficient incentives for Member States to engage in these projects. Therefore the EESC refers to its opinions in which it expresses that new sources of public income should be explored (1).

1.7

As well the EESC recommends careful and selective use of Public Private Partnerships (PPP) in the funding of TEN-T financing, taking into account the different level of experiences among the Member States in using PPP and recognising the need to mobilise EU financial instruments (e.g. structural and cohesion funds, TENs, EIB) as part of a consistent funding strategy, that pulls together EU, national public and private funding. In order to give a free choice for the public authorities to engage in PPPs, the EESC refers to its opinion that the definition of PPPs in Eurostat procedures on public debt should be revised (2).

1.8

The Committee recommends that the revision of the TEN-T guidelines also should regard bottlenecks and missing links in order to encourage a balanced transport infrastructure development in all parts of the Union, especially in the Eastern part to be able to achieve social and economic cohesion. Thus the EESC welcomes the Commission White Paper ‘Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area – Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system’ (White Paper), which refers to this particular issue with great deal of attention and draws conclusion for concrete actions to be undertaken in the coming years.

1.9

Special attention should be paid to the so called neighbourhood policy, i.e. connections to the north, east and the south of the EU, focusing above all on the network, rather than on individual infrastructure projects.

1.10

The Committee suggests that ‘programme contracts’ should be signed between the EU and each Member State on the basis of a redefined TEN-T, setting out mutual commitments regarding financing and timetables for completion. The Committee believes that civil society should be involved in the process of preparation of such ‘programme contracts’ in order to improve efficiency of further implementation of projects agreed.

1.11

The Committee believes that the sustainable development of the EU’s transport policy can be significantly supported through the action of Social Dialogue and/or Stakeholders Dialogue structures at trans-European transport corridors in operation or under construction. The EESC calls for these types of structures to be re-activated.

1.12

The Committee recommends clarifying what is meant with the concept of sustainability. In the view of the Committee it includes – apart from fundamental contribution to the economic growth not only environmental goals as climate protection, noise and air pollution and resource conservation, but also social issues in transport such as employee rights, working conditions, affordable access to public transport for all citizens, including older people and people with disabilities, taking into account their right to mobility as well as equal access to physical facilities and information. It should also take into account the neighbourhood policy with respect to transport infrastructure development.

1.13

The Committee considers a strategy, based on innovation, incentives and infrastructure (3 ‘I’ strategy) the most cost-effective way to achieve sustainable development.

1.14

In the framework of a sustainable development of the EU-transport policy and planning for the TEN-T the Committee recommends to undertake analysis of the possibilities of lifting unjustified existing barriers for the transport modes so that the capacity can fully be used. Better mobility planning should be encouraged in order to promote behaviour compatible with sustainable development. The challenge is to influence mobility and transport intensity in our economies.

1.15

The Committee fully supports the Commission approach presented in the White Paper as far as more European coordination is concerned. To achieve the ambitious targets set out in the field of TEN-T development, having serious financial constrains, will require much more integrated European infrastructural policy properly coordinated from strategic planning to the final implementation of individual projects. It is the time now to deliver results.

2.   Introduction

2.1

In the framework of the forthcoming Polish presidency of the Council of the European Union in the second half of 2011, the EESC has been requested to draw up, amongst other subjects, an exploratory opinion on the topic ‘sustainable development of the EU transport policy and planning for the TEN-T’.

2.2

Considering the importance of the subject, the necessity to fulfil the fundamental right to benefit from mobility and bearing in mind that the transport sector generates 10 % of EU wealth in terms of GDP and provides more than 10 million jobs, while at the same time the constant growth in mobility puts severe restraints on transport systems, resulting in congestion, accidents and pollution, the EESC accepted with great understanding the request of the forthcoming Polish presidency.

2.3

The European Commission prepared a new White Paper on transport, which lays down the plans of the European Commission for the next decade, envisaging a different transport system by 2020, with a single European transport area, open markets, greener infrastructure and low carbon technologies.

2.4

An important element of this new transport system is the TEN-T network. That is the reason why so much attention should be paid to the revision of the EU guidelines on the TEN-T network.

2.5

As part of the revision of the TEN-T guidelines, the Commission is proposing to develop a so called core network, overlaying basic coherent comprehensive transport networks and covering nodes and strategic links.

2.6

The Commission argues that this backbone of a European integrated transport system would help to address consistent problems with TEN-T planning. Solving these problems is urgent because of the growth in traffic between Member States, expected to double by 2020.

2.7

The challenge for the EU is to formulate a policy that, when it is implemented, can combine the ambitions of economic growth in the form of increased transport, cohesion, job creation and sustainable development.

2.8

To meet this challenge it is useful to look at the reasons why projects that have been chosen in the past were not as successful as expected.

2.9

Broadly speaking, the Committee, taking into account the key role of the TEN-T in the creation of efficient transport policy and a coherent infrastructure network within the European Union, agrees with the Commission that the following reasons are relevant:

today’s TEN-T consists of an assembly of national sections that are poorly interlinked; cross border sections and severe bottlenecks constitute missing infrastructure links in the infrastructure network;

the lack of interoperable, coherent networks, in all the EU Member States specially in the railway sector and in the application of intelligent transport systems for all modes of transport;

the tradition in the Member States in using operational rules and standards based on longstanding traditions and legislation that hampers the effectiveness of huge investments in infrastructure. The Committee suggests that these rules and standards should be defined on a high level of security and quality;

the lack of intermodal integration, for example the absence of integrated physical networks and well-functioning intermodal transshipment points cause that capacities for allowing intermodal transport operations are insufficient;

the still existing discrepancies in the development of the transport infrastructure between various EU Member States;

the lack of sufficient transport accessibility in some of the European regions.

2.10

To take into account the shortcomings of the past, the main issues to be addressed in order to benefit from a functional, interoperable and intermodal TEN-T, are clear, namely: realise a high quality network in all Member States paying particular attention to cross-border sections, bottlenecks and nodes, facilitating co-modal operations through the integration of all transport modes and a smooth functioning through the harmonisation of operational rules, that should assure a high level of security and quality.

2.11

An approach along these lines would also address wider transport policy objectives and supporting Europe’s resource efficiency and climate challenges.

3.   General remarks

3.1

The EESC welcomes the fact that the Commission is working on a new Trans-European Transport Network Policy which would provide the opportunity to achieve a social and economic cohesion between all regions of the EU territory, including peripheral ones and that this can only be achieved with efficient transport infrastructure that connects them with each other.

3.2

Keeping this in mind the Committee is convinced that the development and progressive completion of a Trans-European network, as the infrastructure basis for the flows of goods and the free movement of people in the Internal market, remains a vital policy objective for the EU that will bring the Western and Eastern part of the Union together and so creating the future Single European Transport Area.

3.3

The latest official published document with respect to the execution of the TEN-T programme is the Mid-Term Review of the 2007-2013 TEN-T MAP, published in October 2010. It contains a review of 92 projects that account for approximately two-thirds of the total TEN T budget (EUR 5.3 billion out of a total of EUR 8.0 billion). Looking at the location of these projects, the Committee regrets that only a very small part of them is located in the Eastern part of the Union.

3.4

One of the reasons for this is the lack of sufficient financial resources in the new Member States. Another reason is the different conditions that have to be met by using Cohesion and Social Funds in comparison with TEN-T funding. The Committee recommends undertaking an analysis of the delay in the development of the infrastructure in the new member states as well as with respect to the low level of application and execution of TEN-T funding by new Member States.

3.5

The Committee stresses that, if the purpose of the EU is to create a real integrated single transport market in Europe, a radical change is necessary in the financial structure and the choice of the TEN-T network projects. The challenge is to influence mobility and transport intensity in our economies.

3.6

The Committee is aware that, within the framework of the 2020 Strategy, the development of the Trans-European Transport Network needs to be geared at the emergence of a resource efficient transport system that is constructed on innovation and addresses climate change, social sustainability and environmental challenges.

3.7

In this respect the Committee wants to point out that it drafted many opinions in the past years on this subjects, such as the opinions on TEN-T: a policy review  (3); A sustainable future for transport-European transport policy after 2010  (4); The Greening of Maritime Transport and Inland Waterway Transport  (5); Road Transport in 2020  (6); A rail network giving priority to freight  (7); Facilitating cross-border enforcement in the field of road safety  (8); The strategy for the internalisation of external costs  (9); Promotion of inland waterway transport ‘NAIADES’  (10); European transport policy/Lisbon Strategy and sustainable development  (11).

3.8

In its opinion TEN-T: a policy review, the Committee concluded that ‘Given the problem of increasing CO2 emissions, and infrastructure and organisational gaps in relation to goods transport, the Committee concurs with the Commission in its search for co-modal solutions for freight transport so as to create synergies for users’.

3.9

In its opinion European transport policy/Lisbon Strategy and sustainable development the EESC considers that, because of the transport sector’s dependence on fossil fuels and the fact that these are limited, future European transport policy, maintaining the sector’s competitiveness as part of the strategy for 2020 must pursue four main objectives:

the promotion of low-carbon modes of transport;

energy efficiency;

security and independence of supply; and

the reduction in traffic congestion.

3.10

It is clear that Europe is on the horns of a dilemma: at the one hand it wants to create a single integrated transport market for all 27 Member States, which makes it necessary to invest huge amounts of money in infrastructure, because infrastructure is the basis for solidarity, at the other hand there are restraints in the form of budget shortages and targets to curb emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutant substances.

3.11

The EESC already made suggestions to overcome this dilemma which also have a direct and tangible effect on costs in several of the before mentioned opinions: selecting the greenest and best renewable fuels, which brings down CO2 exhaust in a considerable way, making use of co-modality, introducing the concept of internalisation of external costs for all modes of transport and last but not least, introducing other financial instruments such as careful and selected use of Public Private Partnership in the funding of TEN-T financing taking into account the different levels of experiences among the Member States in using PPP and recognising the need to mobilise EU Financial Instruments (e.g. structural and cohesion funds, TENs, EIB) as part of a consistent funding strategy that pools together EU, national public and private funding. In order to give a free choice for the public authorities to engage in PPPs, the EESC refers to its opinion that the definition of PPPs in Eurostat procedures on public debt should be revised (12).

3.12

The EESC is concerned about the financial restraints for the TEN-T projects on European level which might create insufficient incentives for Member States to engage in these projects. Therefore the EESC refers to its opinions that new sources of public income should be explored (13).

3.13

With respect to CO2 emissions, whereas transport constitutes a significant share (24 %) of EU CO2 output, the Committee wants to point out that special attention should be paid to the urban dimension of transport. Cities account for more than 70 % of the population in the EU and they are responsible for one quarter of all transport CO2 emissions and their weight is still increasing. In order to make transport more sustainable, it is clear that cities have to take their responsibility supported on regional, national and international level. Long distance freight transport on the other hand is to a large degree in EU carried out along important co-modal corridors. To make these transport corridors more effective and sustainable must therefore be a priority. Better mobility organisation should be encouraged in order to promote behaviour compatible with sustainable development.

3.14

Despite the fact that EU does have funding problems, that the local acceptance for new infrastructure is low often, and despite the environmental impact of such investments, new infrastructure is nevertheless needed, to fill gaps and solve bottlenecks in the existing network. Especially the new Member States still have many of these gaps and bottlenecks.

3.15

The Committee is convinced, that apart from that and to improve co-modality, activities and money should generally be concentrated on the nodes of the transport system such as transshipment platforms, because they are increasingly becoming bottlenecks and therefore deserve particular attention, and to the corridors between them. Technology and intelligent transport systems can be of great help, especially in the cities. One of the challenges is to deploy them and integrate them across different modes of transport.

3.16

The revision of the TEN-T guidelines will also have to tackle the bottlenecks and missing links with the aim to encourage a balanced and sustainable transport infrastructure development in all parts of the Union, specially in its eastern part, where a shortage of high-standard rail and road links exist, co-modal solutions for a number of important bottlenecks on existing links and nodes are still necessary.

3.17

Although the Committee endorses the idea of the Commission of a core network strategy for the most important cross-border corridors, it also endorses to continue to make EU funding available to develop the comprehensive network in the future, in particular in Member States eligible for Cohesion Fund, on similar terms as in the present financial perspective.

3.18

It fits in the idea that social and economic cohesion cannot be achieved without the construction of all the missing elements of the complete TEN-T network and improving in a sustainable way the existing and future network elements that are in a poor condition.

3.19

With a view to safety, the Committee would like to draw special attention to the improvement of the design of infrastructure including tunnels.

3.20

The EESC believes that a greater emphasis should be placed on the transparency of execution of TEN-T projects, not only during consultations or the selection, but also during the work realisation stages. While recognising that the main responsibility in this respect belongs to the national governments, the EESC encourages the Commission to be more forthcoming in its dialogue with national partners, imposing higher standards of transparency in the project execution, with more information on the physical and financial state of individual projects disclosed to the public on a regular basis.

4.   Specific remarks

4.1

The Committee believes that the sustainable development of the EU’s transport policy can be significantly supported through the action of Social Dialogue and/or Stakeholders Dialogue structures at trans-European transport corridors in operation or under construction. The EESC calls for these types of structures to be re-activated.

4.2

In the framework of a new TEN-T, the Committee recommends that ‘it wants to see explicit consideration given to so-called neighbourhood policy, i.e. connections to the north, east and south of the EU, although the Commission and the Member States should focus above all on the network rather than on individual infrastructure projects’. This also promotes solidarity between the Member States.

4.3

As regards future planning of the TEN-T, the Committee endorses in its opinion TEN-T: a policy review  (14) the Commission’s approach as set out in its Green Paper, based on the principle that each mode of transport should be used according to its comparative advantages within co-modal transport chains and that each mode thus plays an important role in achieving the Community’s climate change objectives. The objective must still be to shift towards the most environment-friendly transport chain.

4.4

The Committee in this respect wants to remind of the concept of ‘Green Corridors’ that was introduced by the Commission in the Freight Transport Action plan in 2007. This concept aims at creating sustainable co-modal logistics solutions with documented reductions of environmental and climate impact, high safety and quality and strong efficiency through demonstration platforms along international corridors with concentrated flows of goods. The Committee wants to link this concept to the high standard co-modal core network corridors of TEN-T that could be well suited for such development in cooperation between public and private partners.

4.5

The Commission stated that the present system radically should be changed. New Member States do not benefit from EU-funding in the same way as the ‘old’ Member States. In order to realise a level playing field, new ways of funding will have to be developed.

4.6

The Committee doubts whether the arguments, used by the Commission to justify the choices of the projects for funding are valid. The Commission argues that ‘these projects helping us to prepare for future transport priorities: notably making transport greener, connecting Europe’s east and west, and providing support to public-private partnerships’. At least question marks can be set at the improvement of the connection between east and west, while the Committee also wants to take into account other funding possibilities than PPPs.

4.7

The idea of the Commission by nominating European Coordinators to enhance the international cooperation in combination with the focus on long term support for the most critical infrastructure projects and the implementation of an executive agency should have contributed to more transparency and should have positively contributed to the development of TEN-T. But, as well the analysis of the European Coordinators, as the results of the multi-annual portfolio review confirm that the progress achieved so far has been fragmented because of the lack of cooperation and coordination amongst Member States.

4.8

The Committee suggests that on the basis of a redefined TEN-T, so called ‘programme contracts’ between the EU and each Member State should be signed, setting out mutual commitments regarding financing and timetables for completion. These programme contracts should cover not only the infrastructure that is part of TEN-T, but also secondary infrastructure that States would commit to completing in order to secure the smooth running of the principal networks, to bring a better service to the population. The Committee believes that civil society should be involved in the process of preparation of such ‘programme contracts’ in order to improve efficiency of further implementation of projects agreed.

4.9

In its Mid-Term Review of the 2007-2013 TEN-T Map Project Portfolio, the Commission concludes that of the 92 projects comprising the portfolio 21 are cross-border projects, of which the mode of transport receiving the most support is rail, followed by inland waterways, while the Commission concludes in its document ‘The New Trans-European Transport Network Policy’ that in the overall picture projects in road and air and to a lesser extent maritime transport are performing rather well in comparison with rail and inland waterways.

4.10

The Committee advises the Commission to clarify what is meant with the concept of sustainability. In order to be able to judge if a proposed project meets the requirements of ‘sustainability’ it must be clear what the contents is of this concept, preferably in quantitative terms.

4.11

Keeping this in mind, the Committee would like to stress that sustainability includes – apart from fundamental contribution to the economic growth – not only environmental goals as climate protection, noise and air pollution, resource conservation, but also social issues in the transport field as employee rights, working conditions, affordable access to public transport in general, but especially for older people and people with disabilities, also taking into account accessibility for people with disabilities to physical facilities and information.

4.12

The Committee would like to put forward that it supports a strategy based on innovation, incentives and infrastructure (the so called 3 ‘I’ strategy) as the most cost-effective way to achieve sustainable development:

innovation: to develop and implement even more ‘at source’ technical measures and operating practices to reduce transport environmental impact;

incentives: to encourage a rapid introduction by all modes of transport of the best available technology and practices;

infrastructure: to ensure free-flowing safe traffic and efficiency by making use of existing infrastructure combined with adequate investment in new infrastructure to remove bottlenecks and missing links.

4.13

The EESC notes that one way of achieving the goal of sustainable development of the European Union is an integrated approach to trans-European networks (TENs). The EESC is convinced that an integrated approach can speed up the implementation of planned trans-European networks and reduce associated construction costs, unlike an approach that does not take account of the effects of possible synergy between different kinds of network (15).

4.14

The Committee considers that, looking at the economic crises in Europe and the restricted available budget for TEN-T, cooperation and coordination between the different financial instruments funding TEN-T is necessary as well as to find new financial sources and credit mechanisms.

4.15

The Committee fully supports the Commission approach presented in the White Paper as far as more European coordination is concerned. To achieve the ambitious targets set out for TEN-T, having serious financial constrains, will require much more integrated European infrastructural policy properly coordinated at the European level from strategic planning to the final implementation of individual projects.

4.16

According to the EESC, the White Paper comes out at the very right time - it should enable a strong political message to be formulated in the context of the forthcoming EU Budget Review. Future financing of EU transport infrastructure development has to address realistic ambitions to create a single European transport area within the shortest possible time frame.

Brussels, 15 June 2011.

The President of the European Economic and Social Committee

Staffan NILSSON


(1)  OJ C 48, 15.2.2011, p. 57-64 (Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on The Economic recovery: state of play and practical initiatives and OJ C 132, 3.5.2011, p. 99-107 (Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on the Proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a Single European Railway Area and the Communication from the Commission concerning the development of a Single European Railway Area).

(2)  OJ C 51, 17.2.2011, p. 59–66. (Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on the Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions – Mobilising private and public investment for recovery and long term structural change: developing Public Private Partnerships).

(3)  OJ C 318, 23.12.2009, p. 101.

(4)  OJ C 255, 22.9.2010, p. 110.

(5)  OJ C 277, 17.11.2009, p. 20.

(6)  OJ C 277, 17.11.2009, p. 25.

(7)  OJ C 27, 3.2.2009, p. 41.

(8)  OJ C 77, 31.3.2009, p. 70.

(9)  OJ C 317, 23.12.2009, p. 80.

(10)  OJ C 318, 23.12.2006, p. 218.

(11)  OJ C 354, 28.12.2010, p. 23.

(12)  OJ C 51, 17.2.2011, p. 59–66. (Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on the Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions – Mobilising private and public investment for recovery and long term structural change: developing Public Private Partnerships).

(13)  OJ C 48, 15.2.2011, p. 57-64 (Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on The Economic recovery: state of play and practical initiatives and OJ C 132, 3.5.2011, p. 99-107 (Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on the Proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a Single European Railway Area and the Communication from the Commission concerning the development of a Single European Railway Area).

(14)  OJ C 318, 23.12.2009, p. 101.

(15)  OJ C 204, 9.8.2008, p. 25 (Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on the Communication from the Commission - Trans-European networks: Towards an integrated approach).