Select Committee on European Scrutiny Fifteenth Report


EUROPEAN TRANSPORT


(a)

(22660)

11932/01

COM (01) 370

(b)

(22776)

12597/01

COM (01) 544



Commission White Paper: European Transport Policy for 2010:

Time to Decide.


Draft Decision amending Decision No 1692/96/EC on Community guidelines for the development of the trans­European transport network.

Legal base:(a) —

(b) Article 156 EC; co-decision; QMV

Document originated:(a) 12 September 2001

(b) 2 October 2001

Forwarded to the Council:(a) 14 September 2001

(b) 9 October 2001

Deposited in Parliament:(a) 28 September 2001

(b) 23 October 2001

Department:Transport, Local Government and the Regions
Basis of consideration:(a) EM of 31 October 2001

(b) EM of 2 November 2001

Previous Committee Report:None
To be discussed in Council:March 2002
Committee's assessment:Legally and politically important
Committee's decision:(Both) For debate in European Standing Committee A


Background

  2.1  The Commission's first White Paper on the future development of the common transport policy was published in December 1992. The main principle of that document was that the European transport market should be liberalised. This has largely been achieved, with the general exception of rail.[8]

The documents

  2.2  Document (a) is the Commission's second White Paper on transport. The overall thrust of the document is summarised in the Explanatory Memorandum of 31 October 2001 from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Mr David Jamieson). He tells us:

"The White Paper adopted by the Commission on 12 September 2001 sets out a comprehensive strategy aimed primarily at shifting the balance of transport in Europe from road and aviation towards rail, shipping and intermodal operations by 2010. It recognises, in particular, the increasing problems of congestion on road and rail routes, in towns and at airports and the harmful effects of transport on the environment and public health and the heavy toll of road accidents. The White Paper itself has no legislative or executive force. The Commission proposes an integrated package of some 60 Community measures some of which it has already published in draft. The White Paper also outlines what the Commission believes national and local governments should be doing themselves in the transport field and in other areas such as urban and land-use planning, budget and fiscal policy and competition policy."

  2.3  According to the Commission, the common transport policy has brought benefits to European citizens in the form of lower prices, higher quality and more choice. Consequently, the number of journeys, and with it personal mobility, has increased. The Commission comments that the internal market makes it difficult to accept distortions of competition in the area of transport resulting from a lack of "fiscal and social harmonisation". It identifies a number of problems:

  • unequal growth in different modes of transport over the last ten years with the highest growth in those modes of transport that are closely associated with relatively high external costs (e.g. road and air);

  • congestion, which arises from a lack of capacity, especially on main road and rail routes, in towns, and at airports;

  • harmful effects on the environment and public health and a very high number of fatalities and injuries caused by road accidents.

  2.4  The Commission illustrates these problems statistically. For example, in the EU 41,000 people are killed each year as a result of road accidents. 10% of the road network is affected by daily traffic jams; 20% of the rail network is classified as bottlenecks; and 16 European airports record delays of 15 minutes or more on 30% of their flights. These delays are estimated to cause 6% of the annual consumption of fuel to be wasted. According to the Commission, congestion also threatens EU competitiveness. Road congestion, for example, is estimated to cost the equivalent of 0.5% of Europe's GDP, and by 2010 the costs could increase 142% to reach _80 billion, or 1% of GDP.

  2.5  The Commission comments that congestion is also caused by a failure to complete the Trans-European Networks (TENs) infrastructure, and that only 20% of the TENs projects in the existing Community guidelines have been carried out.[9] This is considered to have especially disadvantaged peripheral regions. The allocation for the TENs is about _500 million per year, with the railways as the clear priority. However, against this the Commission estimates that more than half of the funding from the European Investment Bank and the Cohesion Fund has favoured road over rail. The Commission illustrates the mismatch of Community funding by reference to Greece and Ireland, which as two large recipients of Community funds for transport projects have motorway densities that are below the Community average.

  2.6  The Commission predicts that on present trends heavy goods vehicles in the EU will have increased by nearly 50% by 2010, compared with the 1998 level. As regards pollution, the Commission comments that:

"According to the latest estimates, if nothing is done to reverse the traffic growth trend, CO2 emissions from transport can be expected to increase by around 50% to reach 1,113 billion tonnes in 2010, compared with the 739 million tonnes recorded in 1990. Once again, road transport is the main culprit since it alone accounts for 84% of the CO2 emissions attributable to transport."

  2.7  Although the growth in the number of cars has stabilised in EU Member States, the Commission is concerned by the expected rapid growth in car ownership in candidate countries, which have a relatively high dependency on rail.

  2.8  The Commission identifies three possible options for breaking the link between economic growth and transport growth in the EU:

  • option (A), which focusses on road transport through pricing methods alone.

  • option (B), which concentrates on road transport pricing methods, but is accompanied by measures to increase the efficiency of the other modes (better quality of services, logistics, technology).

  • option (C), which comprises a series of measures ranging from road transport pricing to revitalising alternative modes of transport and targeted investment in the trans­European network.

  2.9  The Commission's preferred option, option C, is recognised as being very ambitious in that it seeks to end the preferential treatment given to road and to allow the market shares of modes of transport to return to their 1998 levels:

"The White Paper proposes some 60 specific measures to be taken at Community level under the transport policy. It includes an action programme extending until 2010, with milestones along the way, notably the monitoring exercises and the mid-term review in 2005 to check whether the precise targets (for example, on modal split or road safety) are being attained or whether adjustments need making."

  2.10  The Commission says that its detailed proposals will be based on the following guidelines:

  • Revitalising the railways;[10]

  • Improving quality in the road transport sector;

  • Promoting transport by sea and inland waterway;

  • Striking a balance between growth in air transport and the environment;

  • Turning intermodality into reality;

  • Building the trans-European transport network;

  • Improving road safety;

  • Adopting a policy on effective charging for transport;

  • Recognising the rights and obligations of users;

  • Developing high-quality urban transport;

  • Putting research and technology at the service of clean, efficient transport;[11]

  • Managing the effects of globalisation;

  • Developing medium and long-term environmental objectives for a sustainable transport system.

  2.11  The White Paper groups the proposed measures into four sections as follows:

  • Shifting the balance between modes of transport;

  •  Eliminating bottlenecks;

  • Putting users at the heart of transport policy;

  • Managing the globalisation of transport.

  2.12  Shifting the balance between modes of transport: The Commission proposes that two priority objectives need to be met before 2010, namely regulated competition between modes, and a better link-up of different modes (successful intermodality). In order to achieve these objectives, the Commission proposes action aimed at improving the road sector, revitalising the railways, controlling the growth in air transport, linking up modes of transport, and helping to start up intermodal services.

  2.13  Eliminating bottlenecks: The Minister tells us that:

"The Commission plans to propose a two-stage revision of the guidelines underpinning the trans-European network (TEN). The first of these, adopted on 3 October 2001, concentrates on eliminating bottlenecks, completing designated priority routes and improving access to outlying regions. The Commission will present a more extensive review of the TEN in 2004. In particular, this will focus on encouraging 'sea motorways', developing airport capacity, linking outlying regions with the centre and integrating the networks of accession countries with those of EU countries. The Commission also proposes action to address the problem of limited public budgets for transport infrastructure projects."

  2.14  Placing users at the heart of transport policy: The Commission advocates that users should be put back at the heart of transport policy and suggests action to reform infrastructure charging legislation; develop proposals on fuel taxation; provide easier intermodal travel for people; clarify the rights and obligations of transport users; and rationalise urban transport.

  2.15  International Regulation: The Commission recognises that transport is increasingly regulated at an international level and that the EU needs to rethink its role in international fora.

  2.16  Document (b) sets out the revisions to the existing Community guidelines for the development of the TENs. The revisions are necessary in light of the document (a). Document (b) concerns the Community's transport priorities and sets out a list of specific TENs projects. The Minister told us that the main changes to the guidelines relate to measures to:

  • achieve a rail freight network;

  • achieve rail connections with ports that promote short sea shipping and the use of inland waterways;

  • promote integration between rail and air transport;

  • adopt plans for the deployment of interoperable intelligent transport systems;

  • amend the list of priority projects, removing three completed projects and adding six new projects[12];

  • encourage strategic environmental assessment of future extensions to the network;

  • correct the maps to include missing links and to show technical updates.

  2.17  A further revision to the TEN Guidelines is scheduled for 2004.

The Government's view

  2.18  In his Explanatory Memorandum of 31 October 2001, the Minister tells us:

"There is no doubt that there are major problems associated with transport in Europe. And, it is helpful to have the Commission's ideas on how these should be addressed The Commission is right to say that some action is needed at each of the Community, national and regional levels. The Government will consider each Commission proposal carefully to ensure action is taken at the right level.

"It is not possible to specify here the implications of all of the 60 or so suggestions made by the Commission. Before taking a view on many of them it will be important to hear the views of key stakeholders and a major consultation exercise will be launched soon (see below). In some cases there is insufficient information in the White Paper to make a sensible judgement and it will be necessary to seek further information or await the publication of the formal proposals. So, for the moment, comments are confined to what are perceived to be the key issues.

"The modal split objective. The Commission's key target is to ensure that by 2010 the share of the market held by each mode other than road transport is returned to 1998 levels. This appears somewhat arbitrary and the focus on delivering it seems excessive. It would be preferable were it to be but one component of the overall strategy because modal shift cannot on its own succeed in tackling Europe's transport problems.

"Charging for the use of infrastructure. The Commission argues that the failure of users of transport infrastructure always to pay for the costs they generate impairs the functioning of the single market and distorts competition within the transport system. It suggests that existing methods should be gradually replaced with more effective instruments for integrating infrastructure costs and external costs (i.e. costs associated with accidents, pollution, noise and congestion). It argues that Community legislation is needed to provide a framework for infrastructure charging and on taxation of fuel used for commercial haulage. However, tax proposals require unanimous agreement among Member States, and the Government is not convinced that it is necessary to act at the European level in these respects as the Commission proposes. The Government also believes that the proposals for a framework directive on charging for the use of infrastructure and the suggestion that any 'excess' revenues generated by charging full costs should be used to finance measures to lessen or offset external costs raise major issues of subsidiarity and proportionality. The Government agrees that the existing 'Eurovignette' Directive (1999/62/EC) needs to be updated. However, it is important that Member States retain the right to choose whether or not to introduce charges on their roads and, if so, at what level.

"Further rail liberalisation. The Government broadly supports the Commission's plans to bring forward proposals later this year to extend the liberalisation of rail freight from international to national traffic, including cabotage, and of international passenger services. The Government also supports in principle the accompanying proposals for further harmonisation of rail systems in terms of interoperability and safety regulations. However, the proportionality of measures will need careful examination.

"Development of the transport trans­European network. The Commission has just adopted a proposal to revise the transport TEN guidelines (Decision 1692/96/EC) and indicates that it will propose a further revision in 2004. These revisions will concentrate on removing bottlenecks, completing projects identified as priorities for absorbing traffic generated by enlargement and improving access to outlying areas. In parallel, the Commission will propose an amendment to the TEN financial regulation (No 2236/95) to allow the Community to contribute up to 20% of project costs — as opposed to the 10% currently allowed — to support critical but difficult to finance cross-border projects and projects to clear bottlenecks on the borders with candidate countries. The Government will need to look carefully at the Commission's formal proposals for the transport TEN. It supports the Commission's assessment that measures are needed: to address bottlenecks on the TEN; to promote short sea shipping; to promote integration between rail and air; to maximise interoperability of intelligent transport systems, and to facilitate links between the TEN and the transport network in the accession countries. The Government also supports the emphasis on environmental assessment of future extensions to the TEN, However, it has concerns about the Commission's proposal to add 6 new priority projects. Of these, one, the Galileo satellite project, has already reached an advanced stage of discussion but the others are proposed in the White Paper for the first time. There is insufficient evidence in the White Paper to demonstrate that the other 5 projects are indeed Europe's top priorities. The Government believes a rigorous cost­benefit analysis would be required.

"Road Safety. The Government fully endorses the importance of reducing the number of deaths on Europe's roads although it believes responsibility for the necessary measures to deliver this objective should mainly be with national and local governments and that therefore it should be for individual Member States and local authorities to set the appropriate objective to their circumstances. The Government also has doubts about some of the Commission's road safety harmonisation proposals. The safety case for EU harmonisation of road signs and signals seems weak. Furthermore, the Commission has yet to provide a compelling argument for Community legislation aimed at harmonising checks and penalties for speeding and drink driving offences committed by commercial transport drivers on the TEN. The Government will look hard at the justification of road safety, employment and social measures in terms of EU competence, subsidiarity and proportionality.

"Membership of international transport organisations. The Commission suggests that the Community should seek full membership of the main international transport organisations, in particular, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). It also believes Member States should accept the Community as negotiator of air transport agreements, especially with the USA. The Government has serious reservations about both the practicability and the desirability of some of these proposals especially if the result might be to compromise the status of the UK and other Member States in international fora."

  2.19  As regards document (b), the Minister tells us:

"The UK supports the Commission's assessment that measures are needed to address bottlenecks on the TEN, to promote short sea shipping, to promote integration between rail and air, to maximise interoperability of intelligent transport systems and to facilitate links between the TEN and the transport network in the accession countries. We also support the emphasis on environmental assessment of future extensions to the TEN.

"However, we have concerns about the Commission's proposal to add six new priority projects. Of these, one, the Galileo satellite project, has already reached an advanced stage of discussion but the others are proposed in the document for the first time. There is insufficient evidence to demonstrate that the other five projects are indeed Europe's top priorities. Individual schemes must be selected by rigorous value for money appraisal. This is important for the UK because any new priority projects are certain to attract significant financial support from the Community, particularly with the Commission's plans — set out in the recent White Paper — to increase the amount of TEN support it can contribute from 10% to 20% of project costs. More funds for these projects will undoubtedly lead to a reduction in the amount of funding available for UK projects."

Conclusion

  2.20  The White Paper covers a wide range of issues. We support the Commission in seeking to tackle serious transport problems, such as congestion, safety, pollution and the unsustainability of present trends. We have a number of comments.

  2.21  First, while the Commission has outlined 60 measures to support its strategy, we note that it is less forthcoming on the specifics of many of its proposals and how these measures will in practice translate into noticeable improvements in transport conditions in the short to medium term.

  2.22  Secondly, we have concerns about the appropriateness of Community action in a number of areas. We recognise that the Community has competence in some areas, such as in the selection and funding of projects to develop the TENs and in those transport sectors that relate to the single market, such as road haulage, international railways, aviation, state aids (as in the case of subsidies to airlines), and the promotion of environmentally-friendly fuels. We also recognise the Community's interest in helping candidate countries develop efficient and sustainable transport systems. However, in other areas of transport policy, we have doubts about the sufficiency of the Community interest. We note that the White Paper calls for harmonisation of fuel taxation for commercial users, particularly in road transport, and for external costs to be included in the price of travel, which presumably would require higher costs for road users and lower costs for rail users. However, taxation proposals, including those relating to fuel, require unanimity. The Minister notes that some other proposed measures, such as infrastructure charging, controls and penalties for the haulage industry, a review of fuel duty, rules and penalties for offences on the TEN motorway network and signs and road markings on the TEN also raise questions of subsidiarity. The Commission suggests that it will be necessary fully to exploit the use of qualified majority voting, where applicable, in the Council in order to overcome the current delays which occur while Ministers search for consensus. However, it remains unclear which policy measures this would apply to that could have a substantial impact.

  2.23  Thirdly, we note that the White Paper is timid in challenging dependency on the motor car, especially in urban areas. The document echoes longstanding views that the contribution from other modes of transport need to be increased, but is light on ways of reducing over-reliance on the car to a more sustainable level without unduly inhibiting mobility. The problem at the heart of the White Paper is that the Commission has very limited scope to make a real difference to one of the main problems. The Commission recognises that "the place of the car, improving the quality of public services or the obligation to carry goods by rail instead of road, are matters more for national or regional decisions than for the Community."

  2.24  Fourthly, the White Paper includes the horrific statistic that on average in the EU 41,000 people are killed each year as a result of road accidents. We support the White Paper's objective of reducing by half the number of victims by 2010. The Commission recognises that Member States are very reluctant to take action at Community level, whether on seat belts for children or in coaches or on harmonisation of the maximum permitted blood alcohol levels, which they have been discussing for 12 years. However, it adds that "Up until 2005 the Commission intends to give priority to exchanges of good practice but it reserves the right to propose legislation if there is no drop in the number of accidents, all the more so since the figures are still high in the candidate countries."

  2.25  The White Paper also emphasises the importance of better road safety in towns, including developing cycling as a means of transport. However, its approach is not always rational. For example, it calls for the installation of the European Train Control System, which is very expensive. The costs of this system seems to be disproportionately high relative to the small number of lives likely to be saved, especially compared with what could be achieved by investing the same resources in reducing road accidents, especially in towns.

  2.26  Fifthly, as regards the White Paper's goal of a revitalisation of railways, we note that, despite the UK's experience with rail privatisation, the Commission favours separating the operation of services from infrastructure management, especially in the candidate countries.

  2.27  We note that the Transport Sub-Committee of the Transport, Local Government and the Regions Committee has recently taken evidence on the White Paper. We also note that the Government's public consultations on the White Paper are nearly concluded.[13]

  2.28  We have decided to recommend both documents for debate in European Standing Committee A. We further recommend that both documents be debated together and that the debate be held in good time before the March Council, when the documents are likely to be discussed, but allowing sufficient time after the closure of the Government's consultation period to allow the Government to provide a full account of the results of its consultations.

ANNEX 1

LIST OF SPECIFIC PROJECTS

1.  High-speed train/combined transport north-south:

Munich-Nuremburg-Erfurt-Halle/Leipzig-Berlin

Brenner axis: Napoli-Verona-Munich and Bologna-Milano

2.  High-speed train PBCAL (Paris-Brussels-Cologne-Amsterdam-London):

Belgium: F/B border — Brussels — Liege — B/D border

Brussels — B/NL border

United Kingdom: London — Channel Tunnel Access

Netherlands: B/NL border — Rotterdam — Amsterdam

Germany: (Aachen) G27 Cologne — Rhine/Main

3.  High-speed train south:

Madrid-Barcelona-Perpignan-Montpelier-Nimes

Madrid-Vitoria-Dax

4.  High-speed train east

Paris — Metz — Strasbourg — Appenweier — (Karlsruhe) with junction to Metz - Saarbrucken — Mannheim and Metz — Luxembourg

5.  Conventional rail/combined transport : Betuwe lime

Rotterdam — NL/D border — (Rhine/Ruhr)

6.  High speed train/combined transport, France-Italy

Lyon — Turin

Turin — Milan — Venice — Trieste

7.  Greek motorways: Pathe: Rio Antirio, Patras — Athens — Thessaloniki — Promahon (Greek/Bulgarian border) and Via Egnatia: Igoumenitsa --- Thessaloniki — Aleandroupolis — Ormenio (Greek/Bulgarian border) — Kipi (Greek/Turkish border)

8.  Multimodal Link Portugal — Spain — Central Europe

12.  Nordic Triangle (rail/road)

13.  Ireland/United Kingdom/Benelux Road link

14.  West Coast main line (rail)

15.  Global navigation and positioning satellite system Galileo

16.  High-capacity rail link across the Pyrenees

17.  East European Combined Transport/High Speed Train :

Stuttgart-Munich-Salzbourg/Linz-Vienna

18.  Danube river improvement between Vilshofen and Straubing

19.  High-speed rail interoperability on the Iberian peninsula

20.  Fehmarn belt : fixed link between Germany and Denmark


8   The obvious areas are the opening of the road freight and air transport sectors.  Back

9   Examples given are Sparta, the high speed train from Brussels to Marseille and the Oresund bridge linking Sweden and Denmark. The document says that in too many cases the national sections are delayed.  Back

10  . Opening up rail transport to regulated competition - which will start properly in March 2003 when international goods services on the 50,000-kilometre trans-European rail freight network are opened up - is the central precondition for

revitalising the railways. Back

11  Especially in areas of cleaner and safe road and marine transport.  Back

12   The list of specific projects including the UK's West Coast main line (rail), are set out in annex 1. Back

13   Responses to reach the Government by Thursday 31 January 2002 at the latest.

 Back


 
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