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Document 52015IR1426

Opinion of the European Committee of the Regions — Implementation of the 2011 white paper on transport

OJ C 195, 12.6.2015, p. 10–14 (BG, ES, CS, DA, DE, ET, EL, EN, FR, HR, IT, LV, LT, HU, MT, NL, PL, PT, RO, SK, SL, FI, SV)



Official Journal of the European Union

C 195/10

Opinion of the European Committee of the Regions — Implementation of the 2011 white paper on transport

(2015/C 195/02)



Spyros Spyridon (EL/EPP), Member of Poros Municipal Council



Transport as a basic factor in economic, social and territorial cohesion


would emphasise that the mobility of people and goods is a precondition for achieving the fundamental EU objectives of economic, social and territorial cohesion and completion of the single market. Transport contributes to the competitiveness of Europe and its regions and the EU is a global pioneer in this field;


notes the proportionately high cost of transport for goods and households: transport accounts for 13,2 % of household budgets and up to 15 % of the price of products. Transport, meanwhile, is still 96 % dependent on oil, a large proportion of which is produced in unstable regions of the world;


notes that the fact that no intermediate targets were set makes it difficult to evaluate progress made. However, the appointment of the new European Commission and the forthcoming review of implementation of the white paper, coming at a time of rapidly changes in the environment (economic crisis, wider geopolitical developments affecting transport), set the scene for a partial assessment of progress to date;


points out that the white paper's ambitious targets are a driving force for progress. The Committee also notes the interdependence between transport policies and policies for the environment, innovation and social policy, as well as economic policies. It would recommend that these objectives be linked to targets for reducing dependence on oil, curbing noise and air pollution, as well as limiting high costs and combating climate change caused by greenhouse gases;


recommends that the European Commission give consideration, in the mid-term review and the possible updating of the goals, to new challenges such as geopolitical developments, the shift in transport flows, the emergence of new competitors, new technological developments, social dumping, and the specific conditions unfolding in each Member State and region. It should also establish intermediate goals for the period beyond 2020;


congratulates the European Commission on its foresight in adopting a series of legislative proposals and initiatives for packages of measures for rail and air transport and port policy, and calls on the European Parliament and the Council to speed up procedures, so that they can be swiftly adopted. Such EU measures should be developed in line with the principles of subsidiarity and a minimum of bureaucracy;


however, the Committee asks that at least equal attention be given to urban public transport, a key component of the public transport system which can have the strongest immediate impact on the environment and quality of life of the largest number of inhabitants, in the most densely populated regions of the EU;


points out that in order to make the European transport and logistics sector more competitive in the face of competition from other parts of the world, the free movement of goods and products within the EU internal market should be guaranteed in particular.

The competitiveness of regions is affected by, and determines, the quality of transport


would underscore the wider role of local and regional government in urban and regional transport planning and mobility and their decisive importance when it comes to people's quality of life and regional competitiveness. Local and regional authorities are responsible for network planning and maintenance, parking and accessibility, and for monitoring the implementation of environmental standards, and must therefore be involved on the basis of partnership and multilevel governance. The CoR calls for local and regional authorities to be more actively involved in the decision-making process;


notes that there is a direct connection between transport planning in urban centres and urban and spatial planning. The Committee would draw attention once again to the Concept of Sustainable Urban Mobility Planning (including pricing), where the EU's role should be to promote harmonisation without being binding;


reiterates that in order to guarantee good quality transport across Europe, it is imperative to ensure that the places where traffic flows begin and end receive the same attention and support as trans-European transport networks. It is important to provide full support for these points of departure and arrival and to manage all modes and types of transport there;


points out that while the white paper states that for the sake of future prosperity it is necessary to guarantee that efficient transport is available in all regions, the European Commission increasingly sees the transport sector in the same light as any other sector of the free market, and not just when evaluating state aid. Public transport providers (or providers belonging to a public body) often find themselves in a difficult situation, as private operators cover profitable transport and connections (sometimes at dumped prices in order to establish a future monopoly), whereas public bodies and some transport operators (including entities held by public stakeholders) end up operating only the less profitable routes and connections. If we consider that the white paper analyses transport not just as a commercial sector but also as a means of guaranteeing that the EU and its regions are competitive and prosperous, a radically different approach needs to be adopted for public operators (or their equivalent) as compared to private operators. Logically, private operators see transport solely as a potential source of commercial revenue, without considering the need to guarantee that the regions and the EU as such remain competitive;


supports the promotion of non-motorised modes of transport (cycling, walking) for short distances, as they offer more ecological, cheaper and often quicker alternatives. Appropriate transport networks and measures to bring about a change in people's mindsets will help to achieve this, especially as regards the promotion and use of this mode of transport;


with regard to long-distance freight, is in favour of promoting intermodality between sustainable forms of transport and a modal shift from road to sustainable forms of transport (rail, maritime and river transport);


would underline the importance of adequate and properly funded transport networks and means for geographically and demographically disadvantaged areas, such as those with highly dispersed populations, and for island, outermost, cross-border and mountain regions, as a basic factor in bringing about territorial cohesion. The needs of such regions are not sufficiently recognised in the EU’s policies and programmes affecting transport. The Committee would argue that careful planning is needed in order to combine environmental requirements with the those of transport service providers and the need to set reasonable tariffs for users;


emphasises that since the new Member States still do not have good quality basic transport connections (not just TEN-T networks but primarily the basic regional and local connections — such as urban bypasses and the functional regional and local road networks on which labour force mobility depends — which are a key factor in the competitiveness of these regions), in order to correct transport problems and encourage this sector in the new Member States, a very different approach needs to be adopted from the one in place in the old Member States where this infrastructure has already been developed;


points out that local and regional cross-border transport connections are crucial for the cohesion of cross-border areas and for developing cooperation across borders. The Committee emphasises that unfortunately this was not adequately taken into account during the preparation of the cross-border cooperation programmes for the 2014-2020 period;


underlines that attention must to be paid to providing a high standard of transport for vulnerable population groups as well as in regions facing demographic challenges;


highlights the fundamental link between a reliable and flexible and high-quality transport system and the competitiveness of the tourism industry;


is disappointed that little progress has been made so far on intermodal ticketing, especially for multimodal transport across regional or national borders; expects significant progress in this area by 2020;


points out that very little progress has been made in the field of pan-European information on multimodal transport and ticketing services. The Committee also points out that currently most Member States still do not have a national system bringing together all predefined transport timetables in operation and enabling public transport connections to be looked for and booked within a single country. Information on multimodal transport is one of the instruments which can make the use of public transport significantly more appealing to travellers. The Committee also thinks it would make sense, when setting up and establishing connections between the different information systems, to rely not only on the static information provided by predefined timetables, but also on the huge potential of information obtainable from GNSS systems, including Europe's Galileo navigation system;


welcomes the progress made in the area of passenger rights. The Committee notes however that information on those rights and the rights themselves are fragmented, depending on the mode of transport, and calls for more consistency for the benefit of users. The Committee also calls for these rights, which are conferred by the European Union, to be applied more broadly by the Member States, which currently use every derogation possible to limit their application;


points out that the most complicated stage in terms of travel information and service provision is that of the first/last mile, which is generally that part of the journey in the hands of local and regional authorities. It is therefore essential to get local and regional authorities involved in the implementation and monitoring of specific solutions, to make sure the whole system functions well;


regrets that only four Member States are fully applying the rail passenger rights regulation and strongly calls upon all other Member States to withdraw the prevailing exemptions;


points out that the absence of harmonised standards among Member States distorts competition and potentially diverts traffic, with environmental, communications and administrative consequences;


establishing good transport infrastructure and good levels of access to it will make all regions economically stronger and more attractive to direct investment, thereby enhancing both their own competitiveness and the competitive position of the EU as a whole;


considers that the competences of national enforcement bodies of passenger rights for cross-border journeys needs to be clarified.

Working towards an integrated, reliable, clean and safe European transport system


notes the uneven development and fragmentation of the transport network between Europe's regions, particularly when it comes to rail and road; a high-quality transport network, alongside flexible financial instruments, is needed to boost competition. It is therefore considered essential to develop the TEN-T network, primarily in terms of boosting rail freight transport and a network of regional airports;


is in favour of internalising external costs (social and environmental costs, including accidents, air pollution, noise and congestion) and the user pays and polluter pays principle, in order to align market choices with sustainability needs. In this connection, the possibility should be examined of taking further action to gradually phase in a mandatory harmonised cost internalisation system for commercial vehicles on the entire inter-urban network, putting an end to the current situation whereby international hauliers need the Eurovignette, five national vignettes and eight different tags and tolling contracts to drive unhindered on Europe's tolled roads;


notes the progress achieved in road transport safety, but also differences in Member States' legislation and standards, regarding the transport of dangerous products for instance. The Committee reiterates its call for a scientific cost internalisation model, especially for road accidents;


notes that for passenger transport, in particular air transport, passenger safety depends not just on technical quality, but also on regular evaluation of crews and continuous improvement in safety standards, and calls on the competent bodies to take immediate action in these specific areas;


welcomes the Shift2Rail initiative and the promotion of the Blue Belt project, while drawing attention to the fact that insufficient progress has been made in switching to rail and waterway or maritime transport, despite congestion on the roads and in the skies. Trains and ships can further contribute to achieving the goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and accidents. Incentives should therefore be provided to develop and complete the TEN-T network, standardise criteria and rules among the various rail administrations and facilitate access by new operators in the area of free competition;


welcomes the roll out of the Connecting Europe Facility but is concerned that the Juncker plan will siphon off EUR 2,7 billion when the Facility's budget is already too small to build the trans-European transport network. The Committee therefore regrets the EU's clearly inadequate investment in an effective and sustainable transport system and in greening transport;


following on from the recent European Court of Auditors report, calls on the Member States to take measures to eliminate bottlenecks in waterway transport (relating to bridges, locks and river width, etc.), coordinate their action, bring infrastructure projects to completion and implement maintenance plans;


notes the absence of any reference to integrated maritime or inland waterway and air transport, or to the development of seaplanes, and calls for their inclusion in transport planning;


supports the Single European Sky initiative, and calls on the European Commission to present a transparent slot allocation system in order to improve airport use, in the interests of competition. The Committee notes the delays observed during take-off and landing, which are a factor in higher costs, and calls for an examination of the possible environmental impact of increased flight altitudes, on account of pollutant emissions in the troposphere;


calls for coordinated action with a view to strengthening multimodal transport, above all by creating the necessary links to nodal points (such as airports; ports and intermodal transport centres), and highlights the need for coordination at Member States' borders, which could be provided by European Groupings for Territorial Cooperation (EGTC);


warmly welcomes the progress made with regard to the search for alternative sources and methods of financing major transport projects, which require long-term planning and financing. The Committee nonetheless draws attention to the difference in approach adopted to promote alternative sources and to the lack of progressive aid, apparently due to the degree of ‘cleanliness’ of the alternative mode of propulsion concerned. The Committee therefore recommends that more effective support be given to modes of propulsion which produce no or a minimum of emissions and for which the infrastructure is already in place and proven to be effective (as for trams and trolleybuses, for instance);


stresses that technological and legislative developments throughout the transport sector will require new skills on the part of users. The Committee would invite the Member States and the European Commission to take account of the need for continuous training measures and consider their cost at the design and planning stage so that they can be fully implemented;


highlights the rapid changes in working conditions in the transport sector and calls on the European Commission and the Member States to harmonise standards and social rights, with a view to improving working conditions and discouraging unfair competition;


stresses that cleaner transport calls for parallel measures to promote travel by public transport, and research into cleaner fuels and more efficient engines. To this end, it is essential to apply policies to enhance use of hybrid vehicles and electric transport;


underlines the importance of technological innovation driven by alternative fuels and renewed infrastructure for sustainable, environmentally friendly and low carbon economy in order for European companies to expand exports, boost growth and create jobs.

Europe should export its successful transport model


reiterates its support for the European Union's efforts internationally to export its transport models through active participation in international forums;


the quality and safety of Europe's transport networks, which are based on high standards, are an example to third countries and at the same time contribute to European public safety and quality of life. The export of European standards and the opening up of international markets meanwhile strengthens the competitiveness of European industry;


notes that the transport sector is extremely complex, encompassing areas such as infrastructure, information technologies, research and innovation, vehicle specifications and user behaviour, to name just a few. The CoR calls on the Member States and the EU institutions to pay due attention to coordinating these different areas successfully, with a minimum of bureaucracy and in close cooperation with local and regional authorities, so as to achieve optimum results.

Brussels, 16 April 2015

The President of the European Committee of the Regions


(1)  Please note that, in accordance with Rule 55(2) of the CoR Rules of Procedure, ‘Committee opinions on proposals for legislative acts [...] shall express a view on the proposal's compliance with the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality’.