White paper: European transport policy for 2010

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White paper: European transport policy for 2010

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White paper: European transport policy for 2010

This document aims to strike a balance between economic development and the quality and safety demands made by society in order to develop a modern, sustainable transport system for 2010.

Document or Iniciative

White Paper submitted by the Commission on 12 September 2001: “European transport policy for 2010: time to decide” [COM(2001) 370 final – Not published in the Official Journal].


The Commission has proposed 60 or so measures to develop a transport system capable of shifting the balance between modes of transport, revitalising the railways, promoting transport by sea and inland waterway and controlling the growth in air transport. In this way, the White Paper fits in with the sustainable development strategy adopted by the European Council in Gothenburg in June 2001.

The European Community found it difficult to implement the common transport policy provided for by the Treaty of Rome. The Treaty of Maastricht therefore reinforced the political, institutional and budgetary foundations for transport policy, inter alia by introducing the concept of the trans-European network (TEN).

The Commission’s first White Paper on the future development of the common transport policy, published in December 1992, put the accent on opening up the transport market. Ten years later, road cabotage has become a reality, air safety standards in the European Union are now the best in the world and personal mobility has increased from 17 km a day in 1970 to 35 km in 1998. In this context, the research framework programmes have been developing the most modern techniques to meet two major challenges: the trans-European high-speed rail network and the Galileo satellite navigation programme.

However, the more or less rapid implementation of Community decisions according to modes of transport explains the existence of certain difficulties, such as:

  • unequal growth in the different modes of transport. Road now takes 44% of the goods transport market compared with 8% for rail and 4% for inland waterways. On the passenger transport market, road accounts for 79%, air for 5% and rail for 6%;
  • congestion on the main road and rail routes, in cities and at certain airports;
  • harmful effects on the environment and public health and poor road safety.

Economic development combined with enlargement of the European Union could exacerbate these trends.

Road transport

– Objectives: To improve quality, apply existing regulations more effectively by tightening up controls and penalties.

– Figures: For carriage of goods and passengers, road transport dominates as it carries 44% of freight and 79% of passenger traffic. Between 1970 and 2000, the number of cars in the European Union trebled from 62.5 million to nearly 175 million.

– Problems: Road haulage is one of the sectors targeted because the forecasts for 2010 point to a 50% increase in freight transport. Despite their capacity to carry goods all over the European Union with unequalled flexibility and at an acceptable price, some small haulage companies are finding it difficult to stay profitable. Congestion is increasing even on the major roads and road transport alone accounts for 84% of CO2 emissions attributable to transport.

– Measures proposed: The Commission has proposed:

  • to harmonise driving times, with an average working week of not more than 48 hours (except for self-employed drivers);
  • to harmonise the national weekend bans on lorries;
  • to introduce a driver attestation making it possible to check that the driver is lawfully employed;
  • to develop vocational training;
  • to promote uniform road transport legislation;
  • to harmonise penalties and the conditions for immobilising vehicles;
  • to increase the number of checks;
  • to encourage exchanges of information;
  • to improve road safety and halve the number of road deaths by 2010;
  • to harmonise fuel taxes for commercial road users in order to reduce distortion of competition on the liberalised road transport market.

Rail transport

– Objectives: To revitalise the railways by creating an integrated, efficient, competitive and safe railway area and to set up a network dedicated to freight services.

– Figures: Between 1970 and 1998 the share of the goods market carried by rail in Europe fell from 21% to 8.4%, whereas it is still 40% in the USA. At the same time, passenger traffic by rail increased from 217 billion passenger/kilometres in 1970 to 290 billion in 1998. In this context, 600 km of railway lines are closed each year.

– Problems: The White Paper points to the lack of infrastructure suitable for modern services, the lack of interoperability between networks and systems, the constant search for innovative technologies and, finally, the shaky reliability of the service, which is failing to meet customers’ expectations. However, the success of new high-speed rail services has resulted in a significant increase in long-distance passenger transport.

– Measures proposed: The European Commission has adopted a second ” railway package ” consisting of five liberalisation and technical harmonisation measures intended for revitalising the railways by rapidly constructing an integrated European railway area. These five new proposals set out:

  • to develop a common approach to rail safety with the objective of gradually integrating the national safety systems;
  • to bolster the measures of interoperability in order to operate transfrontier services and cut costs on the high-speed network;
  • to set up an effective steering body – the European Railway Agency – responsible for safety and interoperability;
  • to extend and speed up opening of the rail freight market in order to open up the national freight markets;
  • to join the Intergovernmental Organisation for International Carriage by Rail (OTIF).

This “railway package” will have to be backed up by other measures announced in the White Paper, particularly:

  • ensuring high-quality rail services;
  • removing barriers to entry to the rail freight market;
  • improving the environmental performance of rail freight services;
  • gradually setting up a dedicated rail freight network;
  • progressively opening up the market in passenger services by rail;
  • improving rail passengers’ rights.

Air transport

– Objectives: To control the growth in air transport, tackle saturation of the skies, maintain safety standards and protect the environment.

– Figures: The proportion of passenger transport accounted for by air is set to double from 4% to 8% between 1990 and 2010. Air transport produces 13% of all CO2 emissions attributed to transport. Delays push up fuel consumption by 6%.

– Problems: To sustain such growth, air traffic management will need to be reformed and airport capacity improved in the European Union. Eurocontrol (the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation) is limited by a decision-making system based on consensus.

– Measures proposed: Creation of the Single European Sky is one of the current priorities, due to the following measures:

  • a regulatory framework based on common rules on use of airspace;
  • joint civil/military management of air traffic;
  • dialogue with the social partners to reach agreements between the organisations concerned;
  • cooperation with Eurocontrol;
  • a surveillance, inspection and penalties system ensuring effective enforcement of the rules.

Besides this restructuring of the airspace, the Commission wishes to harmonise the qualifications for air traffic controllers by introducing a Community licence for air traffic controllers.

Alongside creation of the single sky, more efficient use of airport capacity implies defining a new regulatory framework covering:

  • the amendment of slot allocation in 2003. Airport slots grant the right to take off or land at a specific time at an airport. The Commission will propose new rules on this subject ;
  • an adjustment of airport charges to encourage the redistribution of flights throughout the day;
  • rules to limit the adverse impact on the environment. The air industry must get to grips with problems such as the noise generated by airports. The European Union must take account of the international commitments entered into within the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). With this in mind, the European Commission recently adopted a proposal for a directive to ban the noisiest aircraft from airports in Europe. In 2002 the ICAO will have to take specific measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Consideration is also being given to taxes on kerosene and the possibility of applying VAT to air tickets;
  • intermodality with rail to make the two modes complementary, particularly when the alternative of a high-speed train connection exists;
  • establishment of a European Aviation Safety Authority (EASA) to maintain high safety standards;
  • reinforcement of passenger rights, including the possibility of compensation when travellers are delayed or denied boarding.

Sea and inland waterway transport

– Objectives: To develop the infrastructure, simplify the regulatory framework by creating one-stop offices and integrate the social legislation in order to build veritable “motorways of the sea”.

– Figures: Since the beginning of the 1980s, the European Union has lost 40% of its seamen. For all that, ships carry 70% of all trade between the Union and the rest of the world. Each year, some two billion tonnes of goods pass through European ports.

– Problems: Transport by sea and transport by inland waterway are a truly competitive alternative to transport by land. They are reliable, economical, clean and quiet. However, their capacity remains underused. Better use could be made of the inland waterways in particular. In this context, a number of infrastructure problems remain, such as bottlenecks, inappropriate gauges, bridge heights, operation of locks, lack of transhipment equipment, etc.

– Measures proposed: Transport by sea and transport by inland waterway are a key part of intermodality, they allow a way round bottlenecks between France and Spain in the Pyrenees or between Italy and the rest of Europe in the Alps, as well as between France and the United Kingdom and, looking ahead, between Germany and Poland.
The Commission has proposed a new legislative framework for ports which is designed:

  • to lay down new, clearer rules on pilotage, cargo-handling, stevedoring, etc.;
  • to simplify the rules governing operation of ports themselves and bring together all the links in the logistics chain (consignors, shipowners, carriers, etc.) in a one-stop shop.

On the inland waterways, the objectives are:

  • to eliminate bottlenecks;
  • to standardise technical specifications;
  • to harmonise pilots’ certificates and the rules on rest times;
  • to develop navigational aid systems.

Intermodality (combined transport)

– Objectives: To shift the balance between modes of transport by means of a pro-active policy to promote intermodality and transport by rail, sea and inland waterway. In this connection, one of the major initiatives is the ” Marco Polo ” Community support programme to replace the current PACT (Pilot Action for Combined Transport) programme.

– Figures: The PACT programme launched 167 projects between 1992 and 2000. The new “Marco Polo” intermodality programme has an annual budget of 115 million euros for the period between 2003-2007.

-Problems: The balance between modes of transport must cope with the fact that there is no close connection between sea, inland waterways and rail.

– Measures proposed: The “Marco Polo” intermodality programme is open to all appropriate proposals to shift freight from road to other more environmentally friendly modes. The aim is to turn intermodality into a competitive, economically viable reality, particularly by promoting motorways of the sea.

Bottlenecks and trans-European networks

– Objectives: To construct the major infrastructure proposed in the trans-European networks (TENs) programme, identified by the 1996 guidelines, as well as the
priority projects selected at the 1994 Essen European Council .

– Figures: Of the 14 projects selected in Essen, three have now been completed and six others, which are in the construction phase, were expected to be finished by 2005, states the Communication.

– Problems: The delays in completing the trans-European networks are due to inadequate funding. In the case of the Alpine routes which require the construction of very long tunnels, it is proving difficult to raise the capital to complete them. The Commission has proposed, in particular, completion of the high-speed railway network for passengers, including links to airports, and a high-capacity rail crossing in the Pyrenees.

– Measures proposed: The Commission has proposed two-stage revision of the trans-European network guidelines. The first stage, in 2001, was to revise the TEN guidelines adopted in Essen to eliminate bottlenecks on the main routes. The second stage in 2004 will focus on motorways of the sea, airport capacity and pan-European corridors on the territory of candidate countries. The Commission is looking at the idea of introducing the concept of declaration of European interest where specific infrastructure is regarded as being of strategic importance to the smooth functioning of the internal market.
The priority projects are:

  • completing the Alpine routes on grounds of safety and capacity;
  • making it easier to cross the Pyrenees, in particular, by completing the Barcelona-Perpignan rail link;
  • launching new priority projects, such as the Stuttgart-Munich-Salzburg/Linz-Vienna TGV/combined transport link, the Fehmarn Belt linking Denmark and Germany, improving navigability on the Danube between Straubing and Vilshofen, the Galileo radionavigation project, the Iberian high-speed train network and addition of the Verona-Naples and Bologna-Milan rail links plus extension of the southern European TGV network to N?mes in France;
  • improving tunnel safety by having specific safety standards for both railway and road tunnels.

On infrastructure funding and technical regulations, the Commission has proposed:

  • changes to the rules for funding the trans-European network to raise the maximum Community contribution to 20%. This would apply to cross-border rail projects crossing natural barriers, such as mountain ranges or stretches of water, as well as to projects in border areas of the candidate countries;
  • establishment of a Community framework to channel revenue from charges on competing routes (for example, from heavy goods vehicles) towards rail projects in particular;
  • a directive designed to guarantee the interoperability of toll systems on the trans-European road network.


– Objectives: To place users at the heart of transport policy, i.e. to reduce the number of accidents, harmonise penalties and develop safer, cleaner technologies.

– Figures: In 2000 road accidents killed over 40 000 people in the European Union. One person in three will be injured in an accident at some point in their lives. The total annual cost of these accidents is equivalent to 2% of the EU’s GNP.

– Problems: Road safety is of prime concern for transport users. However, spending fails to reflect the severity of the situation. Users have the right to know what they are paying and why. Ideally, the charge for use of infrastructure should be calculated by adding together maintenance and operating costs plus external costs stemming from, for example, accidents, pollution, noise and congestion. Finally, non-harmonisation of fuel taxes is another obstacle to smooth operation of the internal market.

– Measures proposed:

On road safety, the Commission has proposed:

  • a new road safety action programme covering the period 2002-2010 to halve the number of deaths on the roads;
  • harmonisation of penalties, road signs and blood-alcohol levels;
  • development of new technologies such as electronic driving licences, speed limits for cars and intelligent transport systems as part of the e-Europe programme. In this connection, progress is being made on protection of vehicle occupants, on making life safer for pedestrians and cyclists and on improving vehicle-speed management.

On charging for use of infrastructure, the Commission has proposed:

  • a framework directive to establish the principles of infrastructure charging and a pricing structure, including a common methodology to incorporate internal and external costs and aiming to create the conditions for fair competition between modes.
    (a) In the case of road transport, charges will vary according to the vehicle’s environmental performance (exhaust gas emissions and noise), the type of infrastructure (motorways, trunk and urban roads), distance covered, axle weight and degree of congestion.
    (b) In the case of rail transport, charges will be graduated according to scarcity of infrastructure capacity and adverse environmental effects.
    (c) In the case of maritime transport, the measures proposed will be linked to maritime safety;
  • a directive on the interoperability of toll systems to be put in place on the trans-European road network.

On fuel tax, the Commission has proposed:

  • separating fuel taxes for private and commercial uses,
  • establishing harmonised taxation of fuel used for commercial purposes.

Other measures have been proposed to improve intermodality for multimodal journeys, in particular for those using rail and air successively, including integrated ticketing and improvements in baggage handling.

Related Acts

Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament, of 22 June 2006, on the mid-term review of the White Paper on transport published in 2001 “Keep Europe moving – Sustainable mobility for our continent” [COM(2006) 314 final – Not published in the Official Journal].


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