The European Commission has released a white paper detailing ambitious plans to transform Europe's transport infrastructure by 2050. The roadmap for a Single European Transport Area includes forty initiatives for road, rail and air travel that aim to increase mobility, reduce reliance on oil imports, cut emissions by 60% and combat congestion by halving the use of "conventionally fueled" cars in urban transport by 2030 with a view to phasing them out in cities by 2050.
The overall goal is to create a unified transport system capable of meeting the needs of the 500 million EU citizens.
"The widely held belief that you need to cut mobility to fight climate change is simply not true. Curbing mobility is not an option; neither is business as usual. We can break the transport system's dependence on oil without sacrificing its efficiency and compromising mobility. It can be win-win," said EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas.
Despite improvements following a 2001 White Paper on Transport [PDF], the Commission says Europe's transport system remains unsustainable. Without change, oil dependence of transport will remain around 90%, CO2 emissions from transport will remain one third higher than their 1990 level and congestion costs will increase by about 50% by 2050.
The challenge is to significantly reduce the transport system's dependence on oil without compromising efficiency or mobility. The major goals set out in the "Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area" are:
- 40% use of sustainable low carbon fuels in aviation by 2050 with complete modernization of Europe's air traffic control system achieved by 2020 to deliver the "Single European Sky". As an example, currently in the EU 27 different air traffic management systems add an average 49 km to each journey
- All core network airports should be connected to the rail network by 2050
- 40% use of sustainable low-carbon fuels in aviation. (Over 750 million people – one third of the world market – used EU airports in 2009.)
- The gradual phasing out of conventionally-fueled cars in cities with a view to significantly reduce oil dependence, greenhouse gas emissions and local air and noise pollution
- Use of smaller, lighter and more specialized road passenger vehicles with focus on fleets of city buses, taxis and delivery vans that can be adapted for new alternative propulsion and fuels
- Move towards zero fatalities in road transport, with an interim target of halving all road casualties by 2020
- Development of eco-driving requirements in future revisions of the driving license directives with reference to fuel-saving techniques
- Progressively allowing for European electronic tolling systems through a single service provider for the whole of Europe, and providing an EU framework for charging schemes to alleviate congestion in cities. For example, current international hauliers need 13 permits, tags and tolling contracts to drive on all European tolled roads
- Movement of more than 50% of road freight traveling more than 300 kilometers (186 miles) to rail or boat (30% by 2030)
- A 50% shift of medium distance intercity passenger and freight journeys from road to rail and waterborne transport
- Tripling the length of the current high-speed rail network by 2030 facilitated by an ambitious package of legislative initiatives that will shake up the regulatory framework for rail
- Creating a fully functioning multi-modal transport system removing bottlenecks and barriers in other parts of the network. For instance the Thalys high-speed train through France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands must currently adapt to seven different signaling systems
- At least 40% cut in EU CO2 emissions from maritime transport (if feasible 50%) by 2050. Europe (EU/EEA) has the world's largest shipping fleet, directly employing some 300 000 seafarers on board merchant vessels and another three million in related jobs
- All core seaports should be sufficiently connected to the rail freight and, where possible, an inland waterway system
- Use of business-based greenhouse gas (GHG) certification schemes and common EU standards in order to estimate the carbon footprint of each passenger and freight journey
- An overall 60% cut in transport emissions by 2050
- Switching to cleaner public transport in cities, as well as the option of walking and cycling
- A higher share of travel by public transport with minimum service obligations. Public transport quality and connections must be improved if consumer behavior is to change: currently 71% of car users feel that public transport is less convenient than the car while 72% say they don't use public transport because of a lack of connections, 54% mention lack of reliability
- Promotion of available transport alternatives for individuals (drive less, walk and cycle, car sharing, park & drive, intelligent ticketing etc.) and facilitating them as an integral part of urban mobility and infrastructure design. In the UK, 60% of cars have only one occupant. One bus can carry the same number of people as 30 cars while only occupying the road space of three cars
- Use of electric, hydrogen and hybrid technologies for long distance and inefficient "last-mile" freight transport, reducing air and noise emissions, allowing a greater portion of freight transport within the urban areas to take place at night, and easing road congestion during peak hours
- Longer-distance travel, and intercontinental freight, air and sea travel should benefit from new engines, fuels and traffic management systems increasing efficiency and reducing emissions
- Multi-modal travel planning and integrated ticketing across Europe
- Creating a fair financial environment applying the "polluter pays" and "user pays" principle
The paper has been met with both support and criticism:
Adrian Tink, motoring strategist at RAC thinks the proposal is commendable and inevitable. "Anyone who's paying over £6 a gallon at the petrol pump will agree with the need to shift to alternative fuels for transport. The problem, at a time of government cuts and tough economic times for many people, is seeing where the massive investment to make this vision a reality is going to come from. We're scratching the surface with many of the alternatives at the moment, and until the technology becomes more mature and the price more affordable, it's difficult for the ordinary motorist to decide upon which bandwagon to jump."
AA president Edmund King agrees that the varied approaches to cutting CO2 are confusing motorists, and ultimately agrees that the move is inevitable. "The reality is that, by 2050, fossil fuel will be so expensive that a new approach to personal mobility will be inevitable."
The European Twowheel Retailers' Association welcomed the plans but were felt that the part two-wheelers could play in helping cut emissions had been underplayed. "Given that a quarter of CO2 emissions from transport occurs in cities, it is unfortunate that the European Commission doesn't give a bigger role to existing low-carbon options such as traditional and electric bicycles and electric scooters, mopeds and motorcycles." said ETRA secretary general Annick Roetynck.
"Weaning our transport system off its oil addiction is essential, said Friends of the Earth's transport campaigner, Richard Dyer. "Phasing out cars that run on fossil fuels from cities is a good way to kick-start action. But despite these headline-grabbing proposals, the emission reduction targets in the plan lack ambition. Commercial biofuels are not the answer. There's growing concern that commercial fuel crops imported into Europe are destroying forests, driving people off their land and generating more emissions than they save. Instead we need better public transport, smarter cars that use less fuel and more walking and cycling for shorter journeys. And our planning systems must be overhauled to reduce the distances people need to travel for work or essential services."