Transport White Paper too optimistic about impact of road pricing?

The White Paper on Transport is facing a wave of criticism from industry federations and NGO’s over pricing and sustainability. The European employers’ association UNICE believes that a disproportionate part of the White Paper is dealing with the influence of price on transport. The European Federation for Transport and Environment finds that the White Paper fails to fully address demands for sustainability.

The main objectives of the Commission’s proposed White Paper on transport are:

  • shifting the balance between modes of transport by 2010 by revitalising railways and promoting maritime and inland waterway transport;
  • having taxation systems reflect the true costs of transport, including external costs such as environmental damage, congestion, or human accidents;
  • making transport systems more efficient and safer.


So far, the White Paper on Transport has been met with some positive comments, but mainly with criticism.

  • In its position paper,UNICEsays that:
    • the White Paper focuses too much on influencing the use of different transport modes through taxation and higher prices, instead of concentrating on raising the quality of alternatives to road transport and on the use of modern logistics (as punctuality and quality of service play an equally important role in the choice of a mode of transport);
    • UNICE supports the stimulation of combined transport, short-sea shipping and inland waterway navigation, and is happy with the announcement of the second railway package, which will complete the liberalisation of the railway freight market;
    • if there are no proper alternatives to road transport, road pricing could result in a generalised increase in logistics costs for European businesses, which would harm competitiveness.

  • TheInternational Road Transport Union(IRU) questions the effectiveness of the policy measures proposed in the White Paper. The President of IRU, David Green, claims that the White Paper neglects incentives to encourage the introduction of innovative technology and fails to recognise that roads offer the best rate of return of all infrastructure investments. Mr Green is also opposed to proposals for financing non-road infrastructure investments with revenues raised from road infrastructure charges.
  • TheEuropean Federation for Transport and Environment(T&E) is very critical of the White Paper. Beatrice Schell, Director of T&E, stated that it "lacks a clear vision for a genuinely new approach and the necessary individual policy measures to deliver them. It falls short of the objectives for the Community defined in the Treaty." According to T&E:
    • a significant decoupling of transport growth from economic growth should be set as the main goal of European transport policy;
    • policies which maximise the benefits of technology, modal shift and demand management should be prioritised;
    • requirements for economic, social and environmental objectives should be integrated in the definition of transport policies.


The Commission presented on Wednesday 12 September its White Paper on the future common transport policy. The 130-page document proposes 60 measures to overhaul the current transport policy in order to make it more sustainable and avoid economic losses due to congestion, pollution and accidents (seeEuractiv, 13 September 2001).


The White Paper will be discussed at the Council meeting of 15-16 October. A resolution may be adopted during the Transport Council, on 6-7 December. The European parliament will probably appoint a Rapporteur during its meeting on 8-9-10 October.