The economic crisis should be seen as a window of opportunity to invest in better transport infrastructure, but it is more important to ensure that existing roads and railway lines are used and managed more efficiently, stakeholders argued, drawing conclusions from panel discussions at a Commission conference on the future of urban, passanger and freight transport on 10 March.
Particularly in cities, there is "a limited amount of space available for transport and it is not possible to just build new and new infrastructure", said Sylvain Haon, executive director of the 'POLIS' network of cities and regions for better transport. Haon stressed that growth in urban transport is expected to complement a modal shift from private cars to public transport, in part due to changing demographics and ageing populations.
"For years, we did not even think about how we should share infrastructure, as there was no congestion. But now there is not enough infrastructure for all," said Marco Sorgetti, director general of the European Association for Forwarding, Transport, Logistics and Customs Services (CLECAT), pointing to another future challenge linked to dealing with growing capacity shortages.
Sorgetti argued that infrastructure is coming under pressure more quickly and more severely in urban areas, because towns and cities have the "largest concentration of people and interests". He called for rules to be defined on "who has priority over who and under what circumstances" regarding the use of infrastructure, for example.
Stakeholders also agreed that more needs to be done to overcome bottlenecks hampering the development of integrated transport systems, such as connecting long-distance networks with urban networks via interchange transport hubs, built around airports, for example. Better transport links to countries surrounding the EU were also called for by the chairman of the European Passengers Federation, Trevor Garrod.
"We also need to address the issue of ageing and behavioural change, diversify transport energy sources and tackle environmental pollution," added Antonio Preto, head of Transport Commissioner Antonio Tajani's cabinet. Preto identified managing the relationship between integration and competition between different transport modes and operators as one of the key challenges here.
The Commission is set to publish a White Paper on the future of transport policy in June.