Examination of Witness (Questions 80-99)|
WEDNESDAY 23 JANUARY 2002
80. Does the Commission have a disappointment
in that its transport policy should have come into effect in 1973
but we still have the situation where arguably there is still
no common transport policy? You mentioned, Mr Rees, in your questioning,
the Essen project from 1994, 14 projects, of which only three
have been completed, according to the policy, and six others are
in the construction phase and will not be finished until 2005.
Is that not a disappointment to the Commission?
(Mr Rees) The definition of a common transport policy
is rather vague and we are not disappointed with the progress
we have made to date. Obviously we would like more progress to
have been made, particularly in relation to railway policy, but
we will wait and see where we go. We hope, with the White Paper,
that we do move on. In relation to the specific question on the
Essen project, yes, clearly it is a disappointment. One of the
problems is that we have failed to find a way to bring private
capital into the financing of these projects. This is something
that we want to tackle in the future, and we have certain ideas
Miss McIntosh: Following on from the line of
questioning Mr Stevenson was pursuing latterly when you answered
questions about the fiscal harmonisation more particularly of
fuel duties, we have taken substantial evidence on that, Mr Rees.
I am slightly concerned that in the policy document on pages 82
and 83 the Commission sets out the promotion of bio-fuels. Perhaps
I ought to state, Chairman, that I do have shares in BP and Shell
Chairman: I think we might have gathered that.
81. While it might be beneficial to certain
farmers, whom happily I represent, would it not be better to go
round the farms removing the Directives which exist in taxation
before looking to bio-fuels, where I understand you are aiming
at 6 per cent by 2010? I understand that it is written elsewhere
that figure is 20 per cent by 2010. When you think that is from
nowhere, and we are now at 2002 and the Directives are not expected
to be agreed before the end of this year, is the Commission not
perhaps taking its eye off the ball? Should it not focus on fiscal
(Mr Rees) I think we are forecasting on both but the
question of bio-fuels tries to address the problem that I mentioned
at the beginning, that we are uniquely dependent in the transport
sector on imported resources of oil. As the North Sea fields begin
to run down, our dependency increases and with the sort of instability
we have been experiencing lately, clearly we have to think about
what we are going to do about this. One of the ways to tackle
it in the reasonably short run is to use established technology
to develop bio-fuels. In the longer run, we will move to new sources
of fuel, particularly hydrogen. This is the way we would be likely
to go, but in the short to medium term, certainly we should try
to do something to develop bio-fuels.
82. In reply to an earlier question on freight,
may I ask: is the Commission not deeply concerned by the action
of the French at the moment, and I gather this is still ongoing
- and obviously EWS have been the main sufferers of this - that
the French have decided they will only do the security checks
on freight between 9 o'clock and 3 o'clock in the morning and
that has caused enormous disruption to the freight transport through
the Channel Tunnel? What representations have the Commission received
and what action has the Commission taken or threatened against
the French Government?
(Mr Rees) This really goes outside the field of transport
policy. Clearly we are concerned with this because of the effect
of the restrictions on movement through the Tunnel in relation
to international traffic to and from the UK. If we are going to
try to help to develop the railways, this is not really going
to help in any way to achieve the Community goals overall. We
are looking at the question and we have posed questions to the
French authorities over what we are doing. As I understand it,
in relation to the information that they have, the French Railways,
SNCC, is currently constructing security fences around the Frethun
terminal, in the same way that Eurotunnel have done for their
part of the terminal. Hopefully, this will help to resolve the
Miss McIntosh: Finally, may I ask Mr Rees: has
the Commission drawn any conclusions, if there are going to be
more rail journeys taken on short European journeys, on what impact
this will have on European air traffic flows? Would the Commission
be able to furnish, if not today perhaps in the course of this
inquiry, annual statistics of the number of aircraft movements,
particularly in the area, say, looking at Manchester-Hamburg,
83. I think those statistics are available,
Mr Rees. I do not know if they are particularly held in the Commission.
(Mr Rees) Yes, those statistics are available. I think
that, if you normally look on the website of the companies or
the airports concerned, you will find those.
84. Could I ask what Commission conclusions
have been drawn if the Commission's ambition is achieved and more
people take rail journeys as opposed to short haul air travel?
What implications can you expect in the future from that?
(Mr Rees) I should make it clear that the Commission
is not made up of railway enthusiasts. We are not recommending
that people go by train simply because we like trains.
85. That is a shame! I already had reservations
about the Commission!
(Mr Rees) The question is that we want to keep mobility
and, if we are going to try to meet the demand I was talking about
earlier, we have to make the best use of all resources. There
are certain corridors, short to medium distances with heavy traffic
flows, where high-speed rail can feasibly take the place of planes.
It cannot take the place of planes over many journeys. We are
saying: would it not be sensible to try to direct the thrust of
railway policy for the high-speed lines and make certain that
they offer services where we can take out air services and free
space for services where there is not competition?
86. We have received two documents from your
office, Mr Rees: the White Paper and the statistics. On page 40
in the White Paper it refers to a linking up of sea, inland waterways
and rail. Then you refer to the intra-Community maritime transport
and inland waterways transport. What is the Commission doing to
lift up the question of using waterways and developing motorways
of the sea? There is a brief reference to it in here. What is
the real problem?
(Mr Rees) Clearly, the part of the transport sector
with the most capacity is the sea and inland waterways. The problem
with these particular parts of the transport sector is not that
they have capacity; it is a problem basically of ports and organisation.
We are attempting, and we have a number of programmes, both of
research and to implement the development of new schemes, to try
to make seamless journeys through ports. One of the classical
examples, Mr O'Brien, is the disappearance, for instance, of traffic
in the North Sea from Scandinavia to the Benelux countries. Whereas
20 or 30 years ago coastal shipping was the main mode of transport,
now it has disappeared in favour of road transport. The reason
for this is quality of service again. We are trying with the professions
concerned to put some support money in to get a better reorganisation
of the shipping services with the land services and in this way
offer a service which really competes with road transport, and
hopefully then persuade shippers to go by a short sea journey,
by sea motorway as we call it, rather than by road.
87. Is there any money for infrastructure both
for ports and inland waterways?
(Mr Rees) Yes. We have recently, and it has been adopted
by the Council and the Parliament, put in money for a series of
ports within the trans-European networks that can receive support
for improvement works. We are also thinking in terms of the Marco
Polo programme that I mentioned earlier and of giving a substantial
part of the money available in this programme, when it becomes
available, to the maritime sector.
88. In the document on page 92 you refer to
the enlargement and the need for adopting standards, et cetera,
for the 15 nations. How will that apply to the programme that
you have just referred to, the countries that will be admitted
in the very near future? Will they be attracting more resources
for inland waterways than Great Britain and some of the coastal
ports? How do you see the programme for the future?
(Mr Rees) In relation to inland waterways, of course
the inland waterways for the UK are coastal shipping. We shall
treat coastal shipping and inland waterways in terms of support
on an equal footing. Some of the accession countries have important
waterways, particularly if they have an access to the Danube.
The Danube is a very under-used resource at present. Clearly we
would want to try to stimulate work to make an improved use of
the Danube, but for countries around the Baltic, such as the Baltic
States and Poland obviously, coastal shipping, as in the UK, would
be the way to go forward. We will be looking to develop programmes
with these countries when they come in to exploit better these
89. Will the UK qualify for immediate assistance
for helping with waterways development, in view of the reference
in the document about building sea motorways?
(Mr Rees) I think there are not too many commercial
waterways in the UK.
90. Could I ask you a question about the one
which you quote in the White Paper, which you say is a very successful
development, which is the ferry between Genoa and Barcelona?
(Mr Rees) Yes. This is Grimaldi Lines.
91. Did that receive any support from the Commission?
(Mr Rees) No.
92. None at all?
(Mr Rees) No.
93. Does it receive any kind of state support
from either country?
(Mr Rees) It would have been from Italy, and we are
not aware of that.
Chairman: That is not quite the same thing.
94. What I was pressing you on there, Mr Rees,
is the fact that our inland waterways and the ports which are
necessary for the connections are in need of some infrastructure
development. Is there anything from the European Commission to
help with that?
(Mr Rees) Possibly, Mr O'Brien, but I should not give
you too much hope there, because there may be isolated parts of
the British waterways network which are openI know they
are openfor commercial traffic, and there there may be
some possibilities. In terms of the UK, though, I think the most
interesting development is the coastal shipping where the development
of services from the North East or from Scotland to ports in the
Northern Basin would clearly be something of interest to take
traffic off the roads. These could be things that would come up
under the Marco Polo operation and they could be supported. The
ports work, if there was any ports work, could also qualify for
support under the trans-European networks operation.
95. Could I put one more question to you about
inland or seaborne traffic? According to the statistics on page
32, we are advised that there are 154.1 million tonnes of coal
imported into Europe. How much transport of that coal is subsidised
by their member countries, which does disadvantage the transporters
of that kind of fuel in Europe?
(Mr Rees) I have to say that I do not know. We have
a problem with coal subsidies, extraction of coal from deep mines,
but we are not aware that there is any systematic state subsidy
given for the transport of coal, and it would be rather surprising
if it was, because both in relation to railways and coastal shippingon
the Rhine in particularthe transport of coal is economical
Mr O'Brien: What about the coal from South Africa?
The point I am making here is that there is a lot of volume coming
into Europe, and it is subsidised. What I am wanting to obtain,
if it is possible, is the level of that subsidy which does impact
upon the shipping companies within Europe; that if there are subsidies
being applied by South Africa, or Colombia or the United States,
then I think we should know about that, so that we can at least
identify fairness with the shipping transactions in Europe that
96. Mr Rees, do you want to go away and look
at this, see if you have any information and let us know?
(Mr Rees) Yes.
97. Very quickly, is there any good news for
(Mr Rees) For walking? Walking should be the most
popular mode of transport in the Community, but I think it would
be wrong for the Commission to put its nose into that. We talk
about cycling in quite a number of places where we believe that
cycling should be encouraged. Clearly, if I may, this is the period
after 2010, because one point I made at the beginning is that
we have to rethink the relationship between transport and land-use
planning, particularly in urban areas. If we can arrange our city
structures in the future to facilitate walking, this will take
out motorised transport, this will be an ideal thing, and we can,
in the context of our framework programmes, look at city strategies
and the way cities are organised and try to help this .
98. Then why not have targets for encouraging
walking in this report?
(Mr Rees) We did not think it was feasible.
Mr Donohoe: I would not like to go from Scotland
to the Mediterranean walking anyway!
99. With regard to the International Civil Aviation
Organisation and the International Maritime Organisation, the
Commission wants to be upfront in this. Is this going to cause
problems for the Member States?
(Mr Rees) The Commission would like the Community
to be upfront in these organisations and in relation, say, to
maritime safety. After the Erika accident, where the Community
started to push on alone and to implement standards, say, to remove
single-hulled tankers, we saw that the IMO came along quite quickly
behind us. I think this is an illustration of the fact that the
Community uses its muscle as 15 rather than as 15 times one. We
can move those organisations further along in the direction in
which the Community wants to go. It is not the Commission wanting
to get in on the act. The Commission already goes to their meetings.
What we want to do is the Community, where we have Community competence,
to act as one.