MEP challenges European transport policy
A taboo-breaking conference was organized on July 12th in the European Parliament by MEP Ari Vatanen, in the presence of Jacques Barrot, Commissioner for Transport, to debate EU transport policy.
The conference came at a time when the European Commission is conducting a mid-term review of its 2001 White Paper European transport policy for 2010: a time to decide. One of the key objectives of the paper is to shift the balance of transport in Europe from road and air towards rail and shipping.
Eye-opening contributions from leading European companies such as Nokia confirmed the extent to which industry is reliant on the road to provide an efficient and flexible transport system. The findings of a new study were presented by RÃ©my Prudâ€™homme, highlighting the following flaws in the current white paper:
Modal shift from road to rail is impossible and even attempting it will undermine Europe’s prosperity. Road transport accounts for more than 85% and rail transport for a mere 4%. Even doubling rail transport â€” through massive subsidies to rail â€” would reduce road transport by only about 5%, its increase over two or three years.
Decoupling transport growth from economic growth is a well-meaning but wrong target. We need to decouple the negative consequences of traffic, not traffic itself, so long as it is sustainable.
Many environmental effects of the roads are “threatened by extinction” through tougher standards. Besides, railways are far from being clean, just think of the coal mountains burnt to generate electricity… CO2 needs to be dealt with, but not more harshly in transport than in other sectors of society.
Roads generate radically more tax revenue than they receive in investments. The very opposite is true for railways. And still we go on discriminating against roads, regardless of their indisputably higher social benefits.
The conclusion of the conference was crystal clear: the current European transport policy steers towards a prohibitively expensive and inefficient utopian ideal.
Speaking after the conference Mr Vatanen said, “For much too long European transport policy has been based on myths. The time has come to recognise the facts and stop wasting people’s money. Dreams about modal shift from the road to the railways can only handicap Europe without actually leading anywhere. That is why I, together with the Taxpayers Association of Europe, have launched a Transport Commitment to Taxpayers (TCT). I hope as many as possible decision-makers in the transport sector have the courage to sign this commitment. We must finally take action – the mobility and prosperity of Europe are at stake.”