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Promoting sustainable transport

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Promoting sustainable transport


To develop a strategy to ensure sustainable transport in developing countries, in other words transport which is safe, economically, financially and institutionally sustainable as well as environmentally sound and socially aware.

2) ACT

Communication from the Commission to the Council and to the European Parliament of 6 July 2000 - Promoting sustainable transport in development cooperation [COM(2000) 422 final - Not published in the Official Journal].



Access to reliable, affordable and secure transport is an important factor for development. By ensuring access to the key areas of development such as employment, health care and education, transport contributes for the most part to economic and social development, integration into the world economy and the fight against poverty (one of the Community's main objectives).

In this respect, the development of sustainable transport has been identified as one of the priority areas of the European Community's strategy on development aid.

The Community's activities relate, in particular, to the ACP countries, for which this sector has been an important area of cooperation since 1963.

This communication is closely linked to the guidelines, drawn up in 1996, establishing a sectoral approach in this area.

Guiding principles

The communication looks at all the aspects of transport systems (infrastructures, legal framework, etc.) from a sectoral point of view.

The principles guiding the development of sustainable transport are divided into four categories, namely:

  • common development principlesThese include involving all of the parties in the development of strategies, marketing and the privatisation of certain forms of transport (urban public transport, for example), minimising the impact on the environment, transport safety and equal access to meet the different needs of women and men;
  • principles for fostering sustainable economic and social developmentThese principles include ensuring that transport has a right and proper share of national budgets, giving greater priority to funding existing transport systems, optimising and integrating existing transport facilities and public-private partnerships, as well as strengthening government skills to ensure effective regulation;
  • principles for integrating the developing countries into the world economyThis involves, in particular, ensuring that the countries make the most of international trade by guaranteeing free movement of transit traffic through the simplification of national regulations and documentation, reducing transport journey times by simplifying procedures and implementing international agreements, and using new technologies to help keep pace with changes in the world economy;
  • principles for contributing to the fight against povertyConsideration must be given to the different needs of rural and urban areas, by facilitating non-motorised transport in rural areas for example. Employing small local contractors to carry out the work is also an important way of contributing to a long-term increase in employment.


Following this approach, the strategy should envisage transport which is economically, financially and institutionally sustainable, as well as environmentally sound, safe and socially aware. Thus, the global strategy is composed of five main areas, namely:

  • a strategy for economic balanceThe actions implemented should aim to draw up a medium-term budget strategy for financing transport, taking account of budget constraints and ensuring that this sector receives an adequate budget in relation to the other fields. Since privatisation will become more and more important, it is essential to ensure fair competition by examining, in particular, tariffs and prices. Efforts must also be made to target subsidies better in order to prevent wasting resources;
  • a strategy for financial sustainabilityThis involves ensuring efficient use of resources, which should be facilitated by, inter alia, a more commercial approach and the privatisation of certain sectors. First of all, the railways must focus on core rail business and contract out to the private sector additional services such as catering. Maritime and inland ports, airports and air traffic services must also use private operators. It is important to secure sufficient revenue for road maintenance. Consideration must be given to the characteristics of these countries, in other words, given the low traffic volumes on certain roads, it may be more appropriate to look at methods other than tolls (levy on fuel, for instance);
  • a strategy for commercially-minded institutional reformRegulation must remain in the government domain. This said, there must be a reform of the public sector to clarify responsibilities and tasks. It would also be useful to adopt a more commercial approach to management. This means making the forms of transport more competitive by commercialising management of the railways and roads (through public-private partnerships, for example), privatising road management and maintenance and granting autonomy to port and airport authorities;
  • an environmentally sound strategyReducing the causes of pollution is an important aspect of this strategy. To this end, efforts must be made to update regulations and improve monitoring and to reduce vehicle emissions by enforcing minimum standards and improving regular testing. The promotion of non-motorised transport may also contribute to this goal. Easing congestion in urban areas is another important factor, which may involve simple measures such as priority bus lanes and parking restrictions. An additional measure is to make the polluter pay. Levying charges on vehicle emissions is a medium-term objective. In the short term, fuel taxation may be introduced. Aircraft fleets should be modernised to reduce noise pollution;
  • a safety conscious and socially aware strategyThis involves, in particular, ensuring a high level of safety, encouraging the use of intermediate transport and improving job prospects. For this purpose, efforts should be made to improve the safety of road and rail networks by making the public aware of the dangers and the rules and by applying these rules more effectively. As far as the air and maritime sectors are concerned, respect of international standards is vital. Greater participation of the private sector offers an important opportunity to create jobs for the population, which is of particular importance given the diminishing role of the public sector. The greatest need is among the semi-skilled and unskilled labour force. Technical assistance for small and medium-sized enterprises is important to provide training on key topics such as labour standards.


The strategy would be implemented on three levels: national, regional and in coordination with other actors at international level.

Community support is broadly structured by the regional and national indicative programmes drawn up by the Commission and the beneficiary country in question. At regional level, the Community can play a crucial role by providing support for regional transport corridors.

It is also essential to coordinate the activities of the Community, not only with those of the Member States but also those of other international actors such as the OECD.

The effective implementation of the strategy depends first and foremost on the political commitment of the governments of the beneficiary countries. The Commission considers this commitment to be a necessary prerequisite.

4) implementing measures

5) follow-up work

Last updated: 01.08.2005