Accession countries building unsustainable transport

Countries seeking accession to the European Union are recreating the EU’s unsustainable transport patterns as more roads are built at the expense of the railways, says a new report.

According to a report by the European Environment Agency (EEA), Paving the way for EU enlargement: Indicators of transport and environment integration, transport trends in both EU and the 13 accession countries are moving away from, not closer to, the main environmental objectives of EU policies on transport and sustainable development.

The EU is aiming to break the link between economic growth and transport expansion and shift traffic from the roads back to rail and inland waterways. But the EEA’s report shows that in most countries, transport energy consumption and associated greenhouse gas emissions are increasing rapidly, mainly due to growth in road transport.

Although railway freight and passenger traffic remains well above EU levels in candidate countries, a road-oriented system is rapidly evolving, which will make it harder to maintain a substantial market share for rail, says the EEA. Motorway lengths have almost doubled over the past 10 years, putting more pressure on nature protection areas.

But accession countries have had some success in curbing air pollutants with the help of modern fleets and better fuel quality, although carbon dioxide emissions are growing with traffic volumes. The report also warns that trends in fuel prices will not encourage the use of more fuel-efficient transport, while the number of cars with catalytic converters remains low. Accession countries are failing to integrate environmental strategies into their transport policies, says the EEA.

A recent report warned that accession money was being targeted at environmentally unfriendly projects (see related story).

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