Official Journal of the European Union

C 28/47

Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on ‘The mobility of persons in the enlarged Europe and its impact on means of transport’

(2006/C 28/09)

On 10 February 2005, the European Economic and Social Committee, acting under Rule 29(2) of its Rules of Procedure, decided to draw up an opinion on: The mobility of persons in the enlarged Europe and its impact on means of transport.

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 4 October 2005. The rapporteur was Mr Levaux.

At its 421st. plenary session, held on 26 and 27 October 2005 (meeting of 26 October), the European Economic and Social Committee adopted the following opinion by 74 votes, with four abstentions.

1.   Purpose of the own-initiative opinion


By 2020/2030 the European Union, which today comprises 25 Member States, will certainly have expanded through the accession of new Member States, starting with Romania, Turkey Bulgaria, Croatia, etc. Without making any assumptions about other possible accessions, it is likely that in terms of cooperation and exchange, at least, the EU's immediate sphere of influence will extend to outlying countries such as the Ukraine, Georgia, and Russia.


Within this vast territory the size of a continent, which forms a rectangle 6 000 km east to west by 4 000 km north to south, new demands will be made of passenger transport so as to guarantee free movement upholding the principle of liberty, develop a European democracy based on cultural exchange and encourage economic development.


The development of the means of transport to meet the likely demand for mobility over the coming two to three decades must be carried out with a view to achieving the objectives set out at the Lisbon Summit in 2000:

‘Europe must become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion’.


All proposals aimed at developing collective and individual means of passenger transport will therefore have to take the following into account:

the most recent studies looking into quantitative and qualitative needs in passenger transport by 2020/2030;

more responsive behaviour by the European public, resulting from the competitiveness objectives set by the European Union at the beginning of this century;

a more respectful attitude towards the environment on the part of the European public;

the need for interaction in the areas of culture, heritage (artistic, architectural, etc.), education, scientific knowledge;

a more cosmopolitan European public, in a territory which will have more than doubled in size;

the introduction and expansion of new technologies, which will allow new means of transport to be developed (provided that the regulations, research funding, and sources of investment required for their development and introduction are provided as soon as possible); and

an increase in trade and tourism from outside Europe, in particular from south-east Asia, China and India.


Any assessments and measures relating to the development of passenger transport must, in order to be inclusive and guarantee equal opportunities, take account of the rights of passengers with reduced mobility (PRMs), such as people with disabilities, older people, and very young children. In order to guarantee that PRMs can enjoy independent mobility free of hindrance, regulatory measures need to be introduced to ensure that future means of transport and the related infrastructure, are accessible to them. In the case of air transport, for instance, the Commission has proposed a regulation which sets out the rights of PRMs (1).


The Committee notes that over the past few decades the European Union has taken an active interest in goods transport, producing a large number of measures aimed at increasing the capacity of freight transport so as to encourage European trade and — hence — economic development. There has thus been a plethora of transport infrastructure projects, a majority of which have been aimed at developing road infrastructure, with a much smaller proportion targeted at rail infrastructure, and very few at inland waterways.


At the end of 2005 the Commission will present a communication regarding the mid-term results of the proposals it made in the White Paper on European Transport Policy for 2010: Time to Decide. This will allow assessments to be drawn up on whether users have successfully been put at the heart of transport policy, and whether consideration given to sustainable development has resulted in a real transfer of increases in freight transport away from roads to alternative means of transport (rail, inland waterways and sea …). The Committee will, at the appropriate moment, present an opinion in the usual form on the basis of this review. That opinion should not be pre-empted here.


Pending this, the Committee notes that even though projections by the International Union of Railways (UIC) give the passenger/km ratio for Western Europe for 2010/2020 (2), no overall evaluation of passenger transport has yet been carried out. For several decades now the general view seems to be that satisfying demands and needs in freight transport will produce adequate solutions in passenger transport. This approach explains the development of road infrastructures. These have been used indiscriminately for freight, as well as individual and collective passenger transport (cars, coaches). Roads have always had this double function. Today increases in road traffic make the co-existence of freight transport alongside passenger transport difficult, or even dangerous, on a number of routes. This prioritisation of freight transport has led to road infrastructure projects being favoured over other means of transport because roads can be used by both freight and persons.


The Committee believes that this state of affairs:

is substantially removed from the priorities set out in the White Paper which places the user at the heart of transport policy;

is difficult to reconcile with the commitment, often re-asserted, to take sustainable development principles into account;

does not adequately encourage necessary European cohesion, which is achieved through interaction of all kind, in other words through the mobility of persons;

gives no consideration to the benefits the European Union can obtain from developments in international tourism originating in China and India. By 2030, these countries should have attained a sufficiently high standard of living to allow several hundred million of their citizens to travel abroad each year.


In view of the above, the Committee, which is not in a position to carry out studies, calls on the Commission to undertake a general appraisal as soon as possible to:

estimate the volume of passenger travel within the EU and its immediate sphere of influence up to 2020/2030;

estimate the amount of travel by Europeans from Europe to international destinations, as well as travel by non-EU citizens entering and circulating in Europe for business, tourism or other reasons up to 2020/2030;

make sure, in view of the above estimations, that existing capacity, or capacity currently planned under various programmes, will meet the demand for passenger transport foreseen by 2020/2030;

put forward, in a new White Paper 2010 dedicated to transport policy, an action plan which corresponds to the ambitions and interests of the EU and its people. This should put greater emphasis on ‘ The movement of people in an enlarged Europe and its impact on means of transport by 2020/2030 ’.

2.   Outline and scope of a general appraisal on transport and the mobility of persons

2.1   New dimensions of Europe. Distance and time:


The Committee calls on the Commission to take action to make Europe's citizens and policymakers more aware of the geographical dimensions that Europe has attained today and will have attained in the near future. By 2020/2030 the EU, which today counts 25 Member States, will no doubt include new members. Its immediate sphere of influence will have expanded as a result of its proximity to other states (or its cooperation with neighbouring states), and will stretch across the entire European continent. Here, issues relating to passenger and freight transport will manifest themselves on a much larger scale.


Currently, too few Europeans are aware of the size of the EU and the scope of its influence. This covers a territory that reaches from the Atlantic Ocean to the heart of Russia, from east to west, and from the Baltic to the Mediterranean — and hence also Africa — from north to south.


The new distances involved in this space, and the time required to travel across them cannot be considered as an extension or a simple continuation of the situation that existed up to that point, given the limitations on technology and speed of travel in the medium term.


Furthermore, globalisation and the increases in the standard of living sought by countries with high population levels will lead to increased demand for passenger transport, with several hundred million people living outside the EU wishing or needing to travel within Europe each year on successive trips of a relatively short nature. The Committee therefore believes that, when considering the future size of Europe attention must be paid to both the distances involved (within the European area, the EU's immediate sphere of influence and international connections), and the time required to cover them (duration of travel, speed of means of transport, optimisation of the time required for travel, taking into account the wishes of users and the constraints they face).

2.2   Potential scope of a general appraisal of the mobility of persons


The main reasons that make passenger transport a requirement are:


The free movement of people and goods is a fundamental principle at the heart of the building of Europe. The Committee believes that constant attention needs to be paid to ensuring that this principle is fully applied in practice within the European area, especially today following the double effects of enlargement and globalisation. Safeguarding this principle represents a major challenge for democracy and European cohesion.


The free movement of people requires the setting of rules (legal, judicial, protection against terrorism, transport of persons with reduced mobility etc. …). However, this is not the subject of this opinion, the purpose of which is to deal with the means of transport and equipment required to maintain the principle of the free movement of persons, and to ensure mobility.


Identifying the reasons for which persons wish to or need to travel is an important prerequisite, since the way in which mobility is provided will vary depending on the relative importance in quantitative and qualitative terms of those reasons.


The Committee recommends that the following reasons for travel are looked into, although this is not an exhaustive list:

business (commercial, professional …);

training and the exchange of knowledge (study, seminars, cooperation on research);

job-related (secondment, performance of a trade …);

discovery and exchanges (tourism, culture, heritage …);

other reasons.


The Committee recommends that the general appraisal it is calling for should focus on travel that generates repetitive or continuous movements of a substantial nature.

2.2.4   Two categories of travel

It is important to consider the way in which individuals travel since this partly determines the means of transport they will use:

Travel by individuals or very small groups (several persons, couples, families…)

Please note: the number of passengers authorised to travel in a vehicle driven by a private individual under the highway codes could be used as a definition of a ‘small group’.

Travel in a large group for different reasons (professional, tourism, retired persons, holiday makers, etc. …).

2.2.5   Distances involved

The Committee wishes to set a limit on the scope of the general appraisal, but points out that doing so in itself requires careful consideration. Obviously, the means that may be used will be many, different, complementary or coordinated, depending on the distance to be covered. Also, the time that users allow for travel is a function of the distances to be covered, the means of transport used, and the reasons for which they are travelling. In considering ways of providing transport, it is also important to take into account the bodies that will be responsible for implementing policies (state, local and regional authorities, municipalities …).


The Committee therefore suggests categorising distances as follows:

0 to 100 km: should not be included in the general appraisal since this represents urban or peri-urban travel, in other words, a special subject, which is to be treated separately and is the concern of cities or groups of cities. The difficulties encountered all over Europe in developing appropriate and consistent services in urban transport (safety, comfort, respect for the environment, pollution, quality and continuity of service …) makes it necessary to pool expertise in order to draw out the greatest possible benefit for users;

100 to 250 km: more frequent use is made of day returns, including for cross-border travel, e.g. journeys from home to the place of work using fast and affordable means of transport which allow those who live a long way from large urban centres to travel to work on a daily basis;

250 to 750 km: it would be useful to examine the conditions in which transport by road (private vehicles or coaches) and rail (normal or high-speed rail services) can compete;

750 to 1 500 km: it would be useful to examine the conditions in which transport by rail (high speed) and air can compete;

above 1 500 km: distances which cover large stretches of the European continent, where the time factor is a greater constraint than it is for smaller distances, and the use of air transport is unavoidable.


Finally, the chapter dealing with distances also needs to consider international and trans continental travel, in order to factor in the movements of people entering and leaving the European area.


The Committee would obviously like the general appraisal that it is advocating to take account of the different forms of passenger transport and the infrastructures that will be required. The aim, therefore, must be to identify, assess and optimise tried and tested means of transport, and also to explore — without preconceived notions — new possibilities which will allow technologies that appear over the coming decades to be integrated into the transport system quickly. This assumes that the Commission will make proposals to encourage, organise and coordinate research programmes for the development of new forms of transport, and that it anticipates future needs, whilst at the same time taking into account the time required to implement new solutions.


The existing means of passenger transport can, for the purpose of this appraisal, be categorised as follows:

Road transport: travel by private vehicles or coaches. There are no indications today that would suggest a decline in the use of this form of transport (quite the contrary). This means that technological improvements to motors and fuel need to be found in order to make them less polluting. Two approaches are possible:

hands off: a policy of ‘wait and see’ in the hope of being able to correct the worst effects;

establish the main thrust of a proactive policy, for example, by preparing maintenance and fuel supply networks for future vehicles using new types of fuel, building and maintaining dedicated infrastructure for certain types of vehicles and road users, and carrying out research into ‘intelligent motorways’, roadside support services and necessary measures to be taken on travel over long distances.

Rail transport: It appears that preference is now given to high-speed links. Unfortunately, this sometimes covers up shortcomings in the traditional network.

Air transport: Given the direction in which the EU is evolving, this form of transport is indispensable for travel over large distances and beyond EU borders. These developments, along with the rapid marketing programme of the Airbus A 380, mean that European airport infrastructures (including links to urban centres) need to be adjusted very soon so that they are able to cater to large aircraft and absorb the expected increases in traffic.

Transport by sea: This means regular passenger transport services on a local and regional basis (North Sea, the Baltic, the Mediterranean) which cover a variety of distances. Such transport could be developed further, for example through ‘maritime motorways’, and could be complemented by other means of transport.

Transport on inland waterways: This form of transport is currently considered a marginal one, except in some capitals built by a river, where passengers use the river to travel to work or for tourism (river cruises or ‘river buses’) However, the development of passenger transport on inland waterways should be considered a possibility and not be categorically dismissed (transport to and from Venice airport etc.).

2.3   Evaluation of passenger transport needs by 2020/2030


The Committee's research into the available data, which forecasts passenger transport over the coming decades, has revealed serious shortcomings in that area. The number of assessments relating to transport as it was in the past is quite large. However, such assessments are not conducive to reliable predictions on the future. For instance, they do not take recent developments into account, such as enlargement of the EU to 25 Member States, the possibility of further accessions in the medium term, or developments in countries that lie within the EU's immediate sphere of influence.


The EESC is not aware of any available studies on the potential impact and consequences on the EU resulting from increases in the standard of living in developing countries. According to several concurring predictions from different sources, these increases will allow several hundred million people to travel outside their country's borders by 2020 in the case of China and, in the case of India, most probably by 2030. The often quoted figure of 100 million Chinese being able to travel outside their country as tourists by 2020 seems unrealistic today. However, this represents only 8 % of the Chinese population. This is smaller than the percentage of Japanese tourists who travel abroad each year (around 12 million people). A recent study suggests that 4 % of the Chinese population have now reached a standard of living equal to that of the European average. 4 % is not a large figure, but, given the size of China, it represents more than 50 million people!


Even supposing that only 50 million Chinese choose to come to Europe as tourists, visiting several EU countries by plane on relatively short stays (ten days on average), the Committee recommends that the EU look into the necessary development of capacities, after having checked theoretical predictions. It calls on Member States to introduce appropriate means of enabling the EU to reap the economic benefit of such increases in tourism. Failure to provide Chinese and Indian visitors with the mobility they expect when the time comes will mean that they will travel instead to countries which are in a position to welcome them.


The Committee noted with interest the document published by the Commission in September 2004 and entitled: European energy and transport: Scenario on key drivers. This document, which should serve as a reference, shows the results of an enquiry into the outlook for various areas by 2010/2020/2030. The main objective of the document is to study energy needs and the possibility of using less polluting and/or renewable energies. Chapter VI deals with transport and gives us some insight into the future. It would be useful to review these figures in order to identify and extract the data relating to passenger transport together with freight transport, which still holds a dominant position in these statistics.


The appendix to this report (3) provides some indication of expected developments.

The data covers 30 countries (the 25 Member States, to which the Commission has added Romania, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Norway and Turkey). Generally speaking, passenger transport in these countries will grow over a forty-year period. (Gpkm = Giga-passenger per kilometre)

4,196 Gpkm in 1990 to 5021 in 2000 (+20 % in 10 years);

5,817 Gpkm in 2010 (+16 % in 10 years);

6,700 Gpkm in 2020 (+15 % in 10 years);

7,540 Gpkm in 2030 (only 12,5 % in 10 years).


The Committee notes that, interestingly, the predictions for the coming decades foresee lower growth than for the 1990/2000 period. This would seem to indicate that the mobility of persons is no longer a measure of economic vitality.


The indication is that passenger transport in private cars will increase by 45 % in the 2000/2030 period, but rail transport by only 30 %. Meanwhile, air transport will increase 300 % over the same period. The Committee is not in a position to assess the consistency of these predictions, but suggests that they are examined in depth so that an overview of the situation in the medium and long term can be gained.


The Committee calls on the Commission to initiate a comprehensive and targeted study to assess, as fully as possible, the quantitative and qualitative needs in passenger transport that have to be met by 2020 and 2030.


This study should examine not just the 30 countries already selected by the Commission in the above document, but also other countries which lie in the EU's immediate sphere of influence (Croatia, Albania, Ukraine, Russia, North Africa …), and which in the 25 years to come will, whatever the form, enjoy closer relations with the EU.


The impact of international travel, especially the effect of tourism originating in developing countries (China, India), needs to be assessed in order to gauge the movement of people both into and out of the European area, as well as movements within it.

3.   Proposals and conclusions



believes that the mobility of persons in an enlarged Europe must be guaranteed in order to strengthen democracy and contribute to cohesion in the EU;


notes that, there are very few studies into the mobility of persons by 2030 that allow the assessment of transport needs and the infrastructures that will be required to meet them;


points out that any expansion of infrastructures on a continental scale would require very long implementation periods (around two decades) before they would come into use;


believes the Commission should, given that the information available indicates a strong increase in demand for passenger transport, initiate studies on the subject followed by a general and targeted appraisal, in parallel with studies and discussions on the development of goods transport;


suggests that these discussions could be the subject of a new Transport Policy White Paper in 2010 attaching greater importance to this than 2001. This should allow the requirements that will confront passenger transport by 2020/30 to be met. The following criteria could be covered:

the main reasons why people travel;

ways of travelling (in a group or individually);

classification according to distances covered;

means of passenger transport used and levels of accessibility, safety and security, etc.;


recommends that the Commission, together with the Member States concerned, introduce the necessary means to ensure the best possible mobility for people, in line with the principle of sustainable development, by taking into account:

the difficulties or constraints faced by people with disabilities, older persons and young children, though cooperation with organisations which represent persons with reduced mobility;

the funding needed for the research and development of new methods and technologies adapted to passenger transport; and

the legislative, regulatory and financial provisions Member States will require to implement investment projects that will meet needs;


stresses in conclusion that a united Europe must ensure that Member States offer a balanced transport service, both for freight and passengers. It wishes to be notified when the appraisal is launched and to be involved therein, and also to be consulted on the conclusions.

Brussels, 26 October 2005.

The President

of the European Economic and Social Committee

Anne-Marie SIGMUND

(1)  EESC opinion currently being drafted on the Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the rights of persons with reduced mobility when travelling by air.

(2)  See Appendix 1.

(3)  See Appendix 2.