European Commission aims to put passengers at heart of new transport policy

The European Commission has launched a new white paper on the future of transport in the region over the next ten years, in order to refocus Europe’s transport policy on the demands and needs of citizens.

The paper, European Transport Policy for 2010: Time to Decide, proposes at least 60 measures designed to bring about substantial improvements in the quality and efficiency of transport, the first of which is intended to shift the balance between modes of transport by 2010 by revitalising the railways, promoting maritime and inland waterway transport, and linking up the different modes of transport. The paper also proposes a strategy designed to gradually break the link between transport growth and economic growth, so that congestion can be reduced without harming Europe’s economic competitiveness.

“The European Union must meet the expectations of Europeans and recognise requirements that are at times contradictory, in order to contribute to economic development while improving our quality of life,” said Loyola de Palacio, Vice President for Transport and Energy. “Europe’s citizens deserve an efficient transport system offering a high level of quality and safety: the white paper lays the foundations for this on the basis of a more imaginative and rational use of the different means of transport and infrastructures.”

The measures in the white paper include:

  • movement towards sustainable mobility, including encouraging the use of the least polluting modes of transport, and to define sensitive areas, such as the Alps and Pyrenees, which would be eligible for additional funding for alternative transport;
  • the promotion of passenger’s rights, such as compensation for travellers who are delayed or denied boarding due to overbooking by airlines;
  • improvement in road safety in order to cut down on 2000’s total of 41,000 deaths on European roads;
  • making transport safety in general a priority;
  • prevention of congestion, including a new programme to promote intermodality, called ‘Marco Polo’, with an annual budget of around €30 million (£18.5 million);
  • harmonisation of taxation for fuel and professional road transport;
  • major infrastructure work, concentrating on missing links such as the trans-European high-speed passenger rail network – including airport connections, and infrastructure with genuine potential for transferring goods from the roads to the railways;
  • Galileo, Europe’s first radio navigation system, intended to provide information on location of vehicles, and telemedicine, to be operational by 2008; and
  • coping with globalisation, so that Europe’s appearances on the world stage do not appear uncoordinated, and to raise the EU’s profile within international organisations such as the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), and the International Civil Aviation Organisaiton (ICAO).

However, in order for the Commission’s vision to become a reality, a number of problems have to be resolved, says the paper, including the provision of adequate funding and political determination. There also has to be a new approach to urban transport by local authorities which reconciles the modernisation of public services with rationalisation of private car use – part of what is needed in order to comply with Kyoto commitments for cutting carbon dioxide emissions. Users are also entitled to expect a quality of service that reflects the increasingly high cost of mobility, and should have full respect for their rights, irrespective of whether the service is provided by public enterprises or private companies, says the white paper.

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