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Document 51998AR0436

Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on the 'Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Committee of the Regions and the Economic and Social Committee 'Developing the Citizens' Network - Why good local and regional passenger transport is important, and how the European Commission is helping to bring it about''

cdr 436/98 FIN

OJ C 198, 14.7.1999, p. 8 (ES, DA, DE, EL, EN, FR, IT, NL, PT, FI, SV)

51998AR0436

Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on the 'Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Committee of the Regions and the Economic and Social Committee 'Developing the Citizens' Network - Why good local and regional passenger transport is important, and how the European Commission is helping to bring it about'' cdr 436/98 FIN -

Official Journal C 198 , 14/07/1999 P. 0008


Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on the "Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Committee of the Regions and the Economic and Social Committee 'Developing the Citizens' Network - Why good local and regional passenger transport is important, and how the European Commission is helping to bring it about'"

(1999/C 198/03)

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS,

having regard to the Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Committee of the Regions and the Economic and Social Committee "Developing the Citizens' Network - Why good local and regional passenger transport is important, and how the European Commission is helping to bring it about" (COM(1998) 431 final);

having regard to the decision of the Commission of 13 July 1998, in accordance with the first paragraph of Article 198c of the Treaty establishing the European Community, to consult the Committee on the subject;

having regard to the bureau decision of 15 July 1998 to instruct Commission 3 for Trans-European Networks, Transport and Information Society to draw up the relevant opinion;

having regard to the draft opinion (CdR 436/98 rev. 1) adopted by Commission 3 on 22 January 1999 (rapporteur: Mr Panettoni),

adopted the following opinion at its 28th plenary session of 10 and 11 March 1999 (meeting of 11 March).

1. Introduction

1.1. The influence of local and regional passenger transport

1.1.1. The Committee of the Regions recognises that transport unquestionably plays a key role in the sustainable development which the Amsterdam Treaty singles out as one of the objectives of the European Union.

1.1.2. The Committee believes that a local and regional transport network meeting the highest standards of quality and sustainability must be created if territorial economic development plans are to be successfully implemented. A good local and regional transport network is crucial for a properly functioning national and European transport system. A system of this kind has multiple effects, all of considerable economic, environmental and social value. An efficient transport system is a key structural component in economic development plans, and hence in job-creation programmes. At the same time, it is a vital element for sustainable development processes since it helps to relieve traffic congestion, restore the environment, cut energy consumption and reduce pollution, particularly CO2. Efficient local and regional transport is also an effective instrument for containing and reducing the social exclusion of the economically disadvantaged, the unemployed, the disabled and the populations of peripheral and rural areas. In addition, it reinforces the territorial cohesion of vulnerable areas.

1.1.3. The Committee would highlight the basic fact that although demand for mobility has been on the rise for several years, actual mobility is increasingly fragmented and patchy. The answer is an ever more flexible system which banishes the rigidity of present systems and creates integrated, highly intermodal systems offering multiple alternatives.

1.1.4. The Committee welcomes the Commission's decision to present an action plan for sustainable urban development, but it must take care not to isolate sparsely-populated rural areas, whose infrastructure is very often out of date. It stresses that this approach to developing the citizens' network offers ways of meeting requirements which may ensure better air quality, and calls for effective measures to support initiatives of still broader scope such as more vigorous promotion of alternative, environment-friendly forms of transport, including effective support for transport technology innovation policies, wider use of low-pollution vehicles with innovative power systems, such as electricity or natural gas, or vehicles based on fuel cell technology (hydrogen), the promotion and development of transport systems separated from other traffic, and support and development of urban freight transport systems.

Moreover, in line with opinion CdR 230/98, consideration should be given to a coordinated approach to land-use planning and price alterations so that sustainable transport becomes cheaper and more attractive to users.

1.2. Opportunities for change

1.2.1. The Committee would emphasise that local and regional transport has gained in importance over the years: local transport accounts for more than 75 % of journeys. The Committee, however, urges the regional and local authorities (a) to coordinate their activities and (b) to involve economic operators and user associations in organising transport networks.

The Committee of the Regions would, however, emphasise the need to step up efforts to make private cars more environment friendly. Within the foreseeable future, this will become essential for many people in sparsely populated areas of the EU where public transport is not viable.

1.2.2. The Committee hopes that each of the parties concerned will launch initiatives to make public transport systems more sustainable, so as to reduce dependence on individual transport. Local administrations must focus more closely on how urban areas are arranged, halting the trend towards the dispersal of residential areas, schools, businesses, medical facilities, centres of production and leisure facilities. This would reduce the need for travel and the current strong demand for mobility. Well-thought out action also needs to be taken on the organisation and staggering of working hours, in order to achieve greater flexibility and break down demand, which is currently over-concentrated and rigid. Moreover, strategies governing spatial planning should treat transport as an essential component which can help generate social cohesion as well as economic development. Spatial planning strategies should seek to optimise mobility management systems in highly congested areas by establishing restricted traffic areas and introducing parking restrictions and payments, controlled access and, in some cases, road pricing schemes. To offset these restrictions, the authorities should see that public transport providers ensure high quality, easily accessible and in particular highly flexible services to match changing public demand. The final aim should be to create a door-to-door transport system which is a real integrated citizens' network.

1.2.3. The Committee fully endorses the Commission's approach to the principle of integrated transport services, which is the key factor for successful public transport, basing integration on efficient intermodal connections to prevent breakdowns in the transport chain. There are two preconditions for this: firstly, infrastructures must be designed with intermodal development in mind, ensuring smooth interconnection; and secondly, services must be organised with coordinated timetables and with built-in flexibility able to cope with the natural disruptions which frequently occur in transport systems. Making the different modes of transport easy to use by introducing integrated fares, and using innovative technologies to simplify and improve ticketing arrangements, is a further condition. Lastly, great care must be taken in devising an information system which helps people to plan their journeys in accordance with their needs, so that they can justifiably see the public transport system as their own network.

1.3. The role of the European Union

1.3.1. The Committee believes that the European Union can add significant value to local, regional and national action by carrying out active monitoring, fostering the exchange of best practice and benchmarking of service performance in order to encourage emulation and an improvement in quality. The Committee is also convinced that the European Union can lend positive support to the achievement of key common transport policy objectives, namely quality, efficiency and sustainable mobility. These objectives can be achieved by creating a policy and legal framework aimed at promoting better use of local and regional passenger transport systems, and winning public support for policies encouraging alternatives to travel by private car. Here, the Committee hopes that EU financial instruments will be used effectively to support investment in transport infrastructure, operational activity and equipment in the local and regional transport sector, geared to attaining key objectives such as growth, employment, economic and social cohesion, competitiveness, energy savings, improved environmental standards, equal opportunities and access for people with reduced mobility.

The four areas of intervention proposed under the Directive (exchange of information, comparison of performance, creation of a political and legal framework, financial instruments) would appear to be relevant. The COR nevertheless believes that steps must be taken to ensure that the proposed action does not lead to inflexibility or to constraints prejudicial to the development of transport.

The subsidiarity principle should be observed in this context. Above all, regional and local authorities must continue to have a say in the supply of local passenger transport services so that account can be taken of the structures and underlying conditions in local areas.

2. The work programme

2.1. Stimulating information exchange

In the Committee's view, there is a strong case for setting up an easily-accessible database covering all experiences in the local and regional transport sector, bringing in data from both public authorities and transport operators. The database could also include the results of projects funded by national governments and the EU, as well as accessibility data already available in 1998.

2.1.1. The European Local Transport Information Service

The Committee welcomes and supports the European Commission's move to set up ELTIS (European Local Transport Information Service), with the help of the POLIS network of cities and regions and the UITP (International Union of Public Transport). The database will contain information on service design and organisation, land-use planning, accessibility and pricing systems. The Committee is particularly pleased to note that the public will have electronic access to the service through the World Wide Web.

2.1.2. Bringing key actors together

The Commission intends to work with national governments to organise round tables bringing together leading organisations and key experts, in order to identify the obstacles to the development of integrated passenger transport and formulate practical solutions. This ambitious programme will be facilitated by the holding of an international conference to familiarise local authorities and transport operators and users with all those instruments currently at the development stage.

2.1.3. The Committee proposes that networks of existing European organisations, regional and local authority services and business associations be set up to disseminate and exchange technical and economic information on specific national and local activities and on Community policies and programmes. The Committee agrees that these networks could be made accessible to the countries of central and eastern Europe and to the Baltic states, which have experienced great changes in travel patterns in recent years and are undertaking substantial programmes to promote sustainable mobility and improve public transport. The needs of the EU countries could prove useful in terms of optimising the research programmes involving these countries.

2.2. Benchmarking to improve transport systems

2.2.1. In the Committee's view, service quality improvements can be effectively driven by a process of benchmarking carried out both by public bodies who contract services and by service operators. The Committee considers that a healthy injection of competition could help significantly improve technical and economic results. Service contracts could include incentives for meeting clearly defined performance standards, which would trigger a series of beneficial effects on service quality. Benchmarking would draw in users and the broader community, with the positive side-effect of drawing attention to local public transport even among non-user sectors of the population.

2.2.2. The Committee also supports the Commission's plan to develop a "self-assessment" system. In particular, this would enable operators to analyse the reasons for poor performance using the quality-control techniques of manufacturing industry, thereby helping to improve service production cycles.

2.2.3. The Committee would suggest that the QUATTRO (Quality Approach in Tendering/Contracting Urban Public Transport Operations) project mentioned in the preceding paragraph should be made as widely known as possible. The basic aim of the project is to compile an inventory of quality criteria and methodologies for quality management.

2.2.4. The Committee would however emphasise that in order to provide a full picture, methods will have to be devised for assessing local transport systems from all aspects. Here, the Committee has in mind land-use planning projects and traffic management schemes which are clearly not the responsibility of operators, but of the public authorities. The Committee thus views with great interest the pilot benchmarking project which the Commission plans to carry out during 1998-1999 with a group of public authorities and transport operators. The project will cover a number of key indicators such as the degree of user satisfaction with the various types of transport, the level of service efficiency, and the impact of transport services on other sectors, especially the environment.

2.2.5. The Committee particularly appreciates the Commission's initiative in implementing a standardisation process, involving the adoption of standardised definitions. This will help to establish uniform, comparable quality criteria, ending the situation whereby varying parameters always stood in the way of reliable comparison. The COR also approves the move to publish a handbook on benchmarking local public transport. The Committee recommends the introduction of quality marks and prizes acknowledging the sector's real importance to quality of life in general.

2.3. Establishing the right policy framework

The communication underlines the close link between improving passenger transport and establishing the right policy framework. This framework unquestionably influences the level of demand for transport, decisions on where to live, whether to use public or private transport, transport operator behaviour and the level of quality they invest their services with. The EU must clearly play a well-defined part in this. However, an assessment must be made of the repercussions in regard to territorial and social cohesion, and of the definition of a new political framework for the most rural areas.

2.3.1. Land-use planning and environmental assessment

The Committee supports the guidelines for an integrated and common approach to spatial planning at European Union level established in the first official draft of the European Spatial Development Perspective, which was endorsed at the Noordwijk Ministers' meeting in June 1997. The Committee attaches great importance to the effects of land-use planning, currently marked by a high level of dispersal resulting in weaker public transport, at the expense of the less well-off. The relevant EU instruments - such as the trans-European transport network, regional and cohesion policy, and environmental and tourism programmes - must be used synergically, so that optimum transport-related land-use planning criteria can be adopted.

2.3.2. The Committee views the Commission's programme to extend environmental impact assessment criteria as significant. Present land-use planning assessment is restricted in scope, and the Committee supports the draft directive requiring environmental assessment of many transport and land-use plans and programmes. It therefore welcomes the Commission's initiative to offer public authorities guidance on including transport aspects in the land-use planning strand of environmental assessment studies. This guidance should be disseminated through handbooks and training workshops.

2.3.3. The Committee is pleased to note that more and more authorities and businesses are adopting mobility management schemes as part of their green housekeeping plans, thereby encouraging sustainable transport patterns. These processes herald a major cultural shift in which environmental improvements and easier access are conditions for new building or development. This in turn saves money on parking facilities, reduces car commuting, and so on. The post of "mobility manager" has recently been recognised in Italian law, bringing to the fore the issue of energy saving and environmental improvement in the transport sector, which is of clear relevance to the regional and local level.

2.3.4. The Committee warmly welcomes the Commission's intention to establish a European Platform on Mobility Management, seeking partnerships with industry and users. The purpose is to pool experience of mobility management and introduce benchmarking in this area so as to identify the most effective solutions for all the varying circumstances across the EU. The COR would stress that, as spatial planners and in many cases organising authorities, local authorities must have their place alongside transport users and operators on the European Platform on Mobility Management.

2.3.5. Encouraging the use of new energies (VNG-LPG etc.)

The Committee proposes encouraging feasibility studies and the development of prototype rail equipment using new non-pollutant energy forms.

2.4. Fair and efficient transport pricing

The Committee fully shares the Commission's views on the inconsistency of transport pricing, which is certainly prejudicial to more sustainable transport. The charges made for individual journeys are totally out of keeping with the real costs, ranging from road infrastructure to the external costs of, for example, pollution, congestion and accidents. The anomaly whereby car owners pay relatively high fixed costs and low variable costs per kilometre - so there is no deterrent to using private cars - must be put right. The Committee therefore refers to the criteria set out in the Commission's Green Paper on fair and efficient pricing in transport, and recognises the vital need for a new pricing framework which internalises external costs. This should introduce the principle of differentiated costs which accurately reflect, for each type of journey, the costs in terms of the environment, congestion, accidents, etc. The result should be to increase use of public transport as an alternative to private cars, which would also benefit those on lower incomes. However, account must also be taken of sparsely populated areas where there is little public transport and the individual is seriously affected if the variable cost component is increased.

The Committee urges the Commission, when considering the pricing system, to examine the effects of different internalisation strategies on the economy, society and the environment, including adequate examination of the effects of cost-appropriate transport pricing on the freight haulage and transport-based sector of the economy and the current state of play in the EU.

2.4.1. The Committee takes on board the Commission's view that road pricing may be one way of dealing with urban congestion; however, it remains sceptical as to the practicability of such a measure as there are still a large number of long outstanding legal, administrative and organisational problems. The subsidiarity principle must also continue to be observed in this case. How acceptable such a measure would prove depends largely on how the revenue it generates is used. Clear, consensual reinvestment in improvements to public transport, and the creation of facilities for pedestrians and cyclists, would be well received by the general public who would see such schemes as steps towards a citizens' network which they could feel belonged to them. The Committee stresses the far-reaching nature of the Commission's plans to cooperate with cross-national groups of urban or regional authorities on road infrastructure pricing, as part of a coordinated strategy to take full advantage of current research. The Committee looks with great interest upon CAPRI (Concerted Action for transport Pricing Research Integration), which sets out to consolidate transport pricing research results and build consensus on the transport policy implications. Awareness and analysis of the factors influencing public acceptance of such a policy will of course be extremely important.

The Committee would stress that the problem of charging for the use of infrastructure by different modes of transport is a particularly complex one necessitating difficult political choices that will have to leave a certain amount of freedom to local authorities and not jeopardise the equilibrium achieved locally in the field of public transport.

2.5. Transport telematics

2.5.1. The Committee believes that telematics applications in the transport sector should be seen in the context of the overall development of information processes, which are now a basic prerequisite for business competitiveness and public service quality. The Committee endorses the Commission's strategic plan, which harnesses the information and telecommunications technology mix to the aim of improving the efficiency and quality of services, as well as facilitating their integration. Consequently, the Committee attaches great importance to telematics applications providing real-time information which is available at work, at home, on the road, at transport stops and in stations. This information should cover every element of the mobility system, including timetables, routes, the level of road and motorway congestion and parking availability. The public must be fully informed on all aspects of the network they are using or intend to use, so they can make the right choices.

The Committee recognises the danger that major investment in telematics applications will make private car transport all the more attractive; the EU's funding instruments should therefore regard public transport and connections to other forms of environmentally-friendly transport as the key task of telematics programmes.

2.5.2. The Committee considers that it would be particularly helpful to simplify and automate payment systems, by introducing electronic ticketing arrangements and promoting multi-use cards for the various services making up the overall mobility system, ranging from all types of public transport to parking spaces, entry to restricted-access areas and road pricing.

2.5.3. In achieving higher service quality, the Committee believes it crucial to develop telematics applications for management purposes, such as vehicle fleet monitoring, electrical and mechanical vehicle checks, traffic control, traffic-light priorities, and centrally guided vehicles in call-systems for the elderly or disabled. For these reasons, the Committee feels that the ITS City Pioneers and CARISMA projects, designed by the Commission to support the deployment of telematics applications in cities and manage links with systems on the trans-European transport network, deserve close attention and should be properly implemented. These initiatives flow from the view that policy objectives vary from city to city: they will allow each city to adopt the most appropriate telematics solution.

2.6. Vehicle and environmental standards

2.6.1. The Committee hopes that technical standards for vehicles will be harmonised, and is pleased to note that the Commission has proposed a directive concerning the manufacture of new buses. The directive sets common standards, for accessibility in particular, and should come into force on 1 October 1999. The Committee is keen to see the conclusions of the work carried out by CEN (European Committee for Standardisation) and CENELEC (European Committee for Electrotechnical Standards) on the setting of reference standards in the framework of the public procurement utilities directive.

2.6.2. Similarly, the Committee would urge UITP and UNIFE (the European association of railway rolling stock manufacturers) to press ahead with establishing technical specifications for light railways and unmanned shuttles. The Committee notes that the environmental standards applicable to road transport vehicles, which date back to the 1970s, are now obsolete and urgently need updating. The Committee also hopes that directives will be adopted as soon as possible to incorporate standards for vehicle emissions, fuel quality and the control and maintenance programmes previously submitted by the Commission on the basis of the results of the Auto/Oil programme, run in cooperation with the car and oil industries. The progress of the Auto/Oil II programme should be closely monitored as, alongside vehicle and fuel issues, it is assessing how coherent public transport and pricing policies can improve the environment.

2.7. Public services and competition in local and regional passenger transport

2.7.1. The Committee highlights the entirely beneficial function of public transport for the environment, economic growth and social cohesion. It follows that the social demand for public transport services is certainly greater than would be provided on the basis of purely commercial criteria. This means that transport services are a public service.

2.7.2. The Committee must stress that it is for the public authorities to issue authorisations for the provision of public services and, where necessary, to help pay for them, regardless of whether operators belong to the public or private sectors.

2.7.3. The Committee draws attention to the requirement for integrated services, which has already been identified as a basic need. Since the presence of several operators with competing services cannot always guarantee this, the best way of achieving integration is probably, by a periodic public tender procedure, to grant a single operator exclusive rights to operate a given mode of transport service within a given geographical area, prompting the operator to invest in infrastructure, vehicles and technologies, and setting rules which create incentives.

2.7.4. The Committee points out that although Community law requires transport services financed by the public authorities to be defined through service contracts, it exempts regional and local passenger transport from these obligations. This is a field which needs to be brought up to date. The COR advocates legislative measures which clearly establish service requirements and financial compensation in service contracts between the authorities and service providers.

2.7.5. The Committee is convinced that tendering procedures, introducing an element of competition, would make it possible to improve services and to achieve or maintain a suitable cost/benefit ratio. A number of countries have achieved encouraging results through such procedures, with cost reductions of between 10 and 35 %, together with enhanced operating efficiency, particularly in urban transport. The Committee notes with satisfaction that the ISOTOPE study (Improved Structure and Organisation for urban Transport Operations of Passengers in Europe) has concluded that arrangements involving competition and tendering have improved services and reduced costs. The Committee notes, however, that services need to be regulated and networks integrated. Similarly positive results have been achieved in the rail sector, although incentives proved necessary in order to promote the sizeable investments required. This has all-round beneficial effects: service quality improves; use increases; the cost/benefit ratio improves; investment resources are generated; and public transport services expand and improve.

2.7.6. The Committee fully backs the Commission's aim, declared in its Green Paper on the Citizens' Network, of updating the regulatory framework for local and regional transport, but would point out that it is very important to maintain the subsidiarity idea in this context.

The Committee considers that new competition and market rules are vital for a more efficient transport system. The rationale for this innovation varies from country to country. The Committee asks the Commission to encourage the sharing of experience of competition to take place. In particular, the Committee asks the Commission to note that in the light of UK experience, deregulation and the advent of open market competition has not been universally advantageous. Open competition may lead to a cheap network but it will not necessarily lead to a transport system which fits consumer needs, provides customer services and is cognisant of the environmental impact. There must be caveats in the system and it cannot be assumed that the market will directly provide the best and most efficient system. Moreover, the experience of many EU countries which have not implemented deregulation programmes shows that state-owned transport companies do not necessarily pursue public goals. Consequently, the Committee considers that efforts must focus principally on regulatory issues by public institutions. It is essential that quality standards are provided within the service contract which include user benefits such as customer care. There must also be compliance with social requirements such as wage levels and working conditions. The Committee urges the Commission to consider competition within the context of environmental, customer, local and regional authorities' concerns as well as operators' concerns.

2.7.7. The Committee points out that in framing contracts for exclusive rights, proper account should be taken of local and regional responsibilities, the nature of the exclusive right, the duration of contracts, their financial structure and, especially, the nature and scale of risk. The Committee also emphasises that the public authorities must retain the right to implement their own strategies and rely on free market procedures.

2.8. Transport for people with reduced mobility

2.8.1. In the Committee's view, it should be made clearer that the category of "people with reduced mobility" in relation to public transport use extends not only to the disabled, but also to those carrying luggage, pushing a pram or travelling with children. Accessibility is clearly the key factor for all these people. The Committee stresses that vehicle accessibility requirements, equipment such as self-opening doors, targeted information, low-floor buses with street-level access, and bus stops redesigned to be more accessible, while aimed at facilitating travel within the EU for the disabled or people with reduced mobility, will also greatly improve the quality and attractiveness of the service for other users.

2.8.2. Modernising public transport modes and operating systems

The Committee proposes modernising public transport modes and operating systems, inter alia in rural areas, in order to minimise the operating costs of such networks.

2.9. Car sharing

The Committee of the Regions sees car sharing as an important complement to conventional public transport services. In particular, the combination of public transport and car-sharing would go a considerable way towards solving urban traffic problems in an ecologically, socially and economically acceptable way. The Committee therefore recommends incorporating organised car sharing into Citizens' Networks.

3. Using the European Union's financial instruments effectively

3.1. The Committee agrees with the principle that local and regional authorities should be responsible for administering public financial support for local and regional transport where such support is needed. However, it also agrees with the Commission that in cases where sustainable local and regional passenger transport has a decisive part to play in delivering the objectives embodied in EU programmes - for example, proper links between a trans-European network with local transport networks in order to make optimal use of development programmes financed by the Structural Funds - it may receive financial support. The Committee woiuld point out in this connection that the meagre resources avialable for promoting the trans-European networks should be focused on transport projects and infrastructure projects which give priority to improving long-distance links. For this reason, the Committee cannot endorse the Commission proposal to include the interfaces between the trans-European networks and local/regional transport infrastructures in the TEN guidelines, thereby making general support possible. Similarly, the Committee supports the principle that the Commission should consider support measures for the countries of central and eastern Europe and the more peripheral areas of the EU, where the role of sustainable local transport is to complement improvements in long distance transport and regional development policy.

The COR also urges the Commission to give special considertion to those ultra-peripheral EU regions whose intrinsic features (particularly difficult terrain or extreme dispersion of their population) pose extra problems for local and regional transport networks in addition to those arising from their geographical position.

3.2. The trans-European transport network

3.2.1. It is the Committee's view that particular attention should be focused on the development of the trans-European transport network (TEN-T) and on its connection to regional and local transport networks. The trans-European network, which is to provide interconnections and interoperability between national transport networks and ensure access to them, will require at least ECU 400 billion up to 2010.

3.2.2. The Committee consequently advocates investment in the trans-European network and supports the priorities for action identified by the European Parliament and the Council concerning infrastructure for network access, the establishment and improvement of interchanges, traffic management systems, positioning and navigation systems and the deployment of applied telematics services. In this regard, the COR urges the Commission to decide in favour of including intermodal passenger terminals in the TEN-T guidelines, and to examine the case for including local and regional infrastructure links in the network.

3.3. The research, technological development and demonstration programmes

3.3.1. The Committee highlights the need to continue research activity, especially that geared to devising technological innovations and organisational insights; at the same time, large scale demonstration projects are needed. It therefore recommends the broadest possible dissemination among the EU Member States of the Fifth Framework Programme, to be launched in 1999 or 2000, and supports the actions proposed by the Commission, four of which are of specific relevance to the Citizens' Network: "Sustainable mobility and intermodality", "Land transport and marine technologies", "The city of tomorrow and cultural heritage" and "Systems and services for the citizen".

3.4. Regional development and the Structural Funds

3.4.1. The Committee also supports measures within the sector to help reduce social exclusion, believing that targeted improvements in public transport, particularly in densely populated areas, or conversely in sparsely populated areas, are vital for the success of training schemes, job creation initiatives and the regeneration of run-down inner cities and suburbs. The need for investment in urban transport, with sustainability paramount, flows from this.

3.4.2. The Committee further recommends that special attention be given to rural areas, devising development strategies which help rural economies diversify - although this can also bring in more traffic - and counter the almost total reliance on cars in such areas.

The Committee considers that new lines of funding must be created to enable public transport to operate in those regions that are depressed or where the population is so scattered that such services are not viable when run on a strictly commercial basis.

The Committee also proposes setting up a programme to study the problems of transport in areas of low traffic levels, analysing both supply and demand.

3.5. Providing information about European Union funding

The Committee calls for the publication and wide distribution of a guide explaining all the funding programmes and the procedures determining eligibility for financial support.

Brussels, 11 March 1999.

The President

of the Committee of the Regions

Manfred DAMMEYER

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