European cities selected as guinea pigs for new transport schemes

The European Commission has revealed the names of 14 European cities which have been awarded €50 million (£31 million) to implement radical improvements of their urban transport to discourage the use of private cars.

The cities, which come from European Union and accession countries, will combat congestion and pollution, in particular by enhancing energy efficiency and the use of ‘clean’ fuels. The EU will provide 35% of the funding for the projects proposed by the pilot cities and the cities themselves will provide the rest. The Commission says that in the past, support for such initiatives has been uncoordinated, but each city’s proposals under the so-called Civitas Initiative will change this, with the results to be independently assessed and forming the basis of a guide on best practice for use by other cities.

The cities shortlisted for the pilot scheme include the metropolises of Barcelona, Berlin, Rome, Prague and Warsaw. The smaller cities taking part are: the Swedish capital, Stockholm and second city, Gothenburg; the Netherlands second city, Rotterdam; the British cities of Bristol and Winchester; Cork in Ireland; Bremen in Germany; Aalborg in Denmark; Graz in Austria; Lille and Nantes in France; Gdynia in Poland; Kaunas in Lithuania; and Pécs in Hungary.

Most of the pilot cities are implementing the large-scale introduction of buses running on compressed natural gas or bio-diesel, such as Graz, where all of the bus fleet and 60% of the taxi fleet will be converted to bio-diesel, and Nantes, where a new fleet of 155 compressed natural gas buses is to be introduced, although several cities will experiment with more radical proposals.

Rome will see the creation of the largest operational access control zone in Europe and the promotion of electric scooters, which will include on-street re-charging facilities. Berlin is to develop the ‘Metropolitan Fleet Car’: a pool of cars powered by natural gas available to the city government and municipal organisations during the daytime as company cars, while outside regular working hours, the cars will be available to citizens within the framework of a car sharing system. Rotterdam is to introduce more transport using water systems.

Limiting access to city centres will also form a central part of several cities’ strategies, such as in Bristol and Rotterdam which will limit commercial traffic in the city centre except for vehicles running on clean fuel. Graz will introduce environmentally-based parking pricing, where more polluting vehicles pay higher tariffs.

“Only new approaches will enable us to deal successfully with the growth in pollution and congestion caused by transport in cities,” commented Loyola de Palacio, the EC Vice-President and the commissioner responsible for energy and transport. “The Commission is happy to provide financial support for pilot cities that wish to show the effectiveness of integrated action.”

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