Tuesday

26th Jan 2021

Brussels to propose €2.5 trillion overhaul of EU transport sector

  • The rising cost of oil is another reason for the EU to wean itself off the fuel (Photo: Antonio)

Europe must invest €1.5 trillion in transport infrastructure over the next two decades and a further €1 trillion in vehicles and equipment, the European Commission is set to say.

The need to shift from road to rail transport, greater emphasis on the 'polluter pays' principle and an overhaul of security measures following recent terrorist attempts are also outlined in the commission's white paper on transport, set to be published on 28 March and seen by EUobserver.

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Commission senior officials reached final agreement on the 29-page policy document on Monday (21 March), although last minute changes are still possible.

"Europe needs a 'core network' of corridors, carrying large and consolidated volumes of freight and passengers traffic with high efficiency and low emissions," says the paper.

"Despite EU enlargement, large divergences in terms of transport infrastructure remain between eastern and western parts of the EU," continues the document, stressing the need for better links between EU capitals, ports, airports and key land borders.

Added to this, the commission estimates that European air transport will more than double by 2050, but the region's ongoing debt crisis has placed a question mark over funding to support the extra infrastructure required.

To tackle this, the commission last month opened a consultation process on EU 'project bonds', under which the European Investment Bank could potentially buy some of the bonds private firms or state entities routinely issue to raise money to build specific projects.

EU citizens may also have to pay more for transport in the future, however. "Transport charges and taxes must be restructured in the direction of wider application of the 'polluter-pays' and 'user-pays' principle," says the commission white paper.

If approved by member states, noise and air pollution externalities would be built into ticket costs, while market-distorting subsidies would be phased out.

An annex provides an action list for governments in this area. "Revise motor fuel taxation with clear identification of the energy and CO2 component," and "Phase in a mandatory infrastructure charge for heavy-duty vehicles," are among the proposals, to be implemented before 2016.

Another includes an extra charge when purchasing road vehicles, factoring in the "social costs of congestion, CO2 - if not included in fuel tax - local pollution, noise and accidents."

As turmoil in northern Africa and the Middle East continues to raise uncertainty over oil supplies and prices this week, the commission's paper also calls on the EU to gradually wean itself off the fossil fuel. In 2010, the EU's oil import bill was around €210 billion.

The campaign group Transport and Environment welcomed many of the proposals, but was critical of delayed efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, linked to global warming.

Europe has committed to reducing carbon emissions by 80-95 percent by 2050, although the commission previously agreed that emissions from the transport sector should be reduced by a more modest 60 percent.

"By opting for a 60 percent cut in the transport sector, the commission is ruling out the upper end of the overall 80-95 percent target," Nina Renshaw, deputy director of Transport and Environment, told this website.

The group is also highly critical of the commission's plan to delay most of the transport sector CO2 cuts until after 2030, and questioned whether further development of Europe's aviation sector would help.

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