White Paper on Transport


In 2001, the Commission presented a White Paper proposing 60 measures to overhaul the EU’s transport policy in order to make it more sustainable and avoid huge economic losses due to congestion, pollution and accidents. A 2006 mid-term update attempts to re-balance the policy towards economic objectives.

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In 2001, the EU's transport policy was facing a number of challenges: 

  • the continued rise in freight and passenger transport; 
  • road congestion; 
  • environmental pressures; 
  • safety and quality of life problems. 

To address these problems, the main objectives of the Commission’s White Paper on transport were: 

  • decoupling economic growth and transport growth; 
  • shifting the balance between modes of transport by 2010, by curbing the demand for road transport via pricing mechanisms and revitalising alternative transport modes such as railways, maritime and inland waterway transport (inter-modality); 
  • 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. 

In the last five years, the White paper has led to various policy initiatives:  

  • Adoption of a Regulation reinforcing air passengers rights (e.g. with airline overbooking); 
  • Improving road safety: the European road safety action programme was launched and two Communications on eSafety (see our LinksDossier on eSafety), laying down a set of measures for supporting the development of safer and more intelligent vehicles, were adopted, with the overall objective of improving road safety and halving the number of road deaths by 2010; 
  • Preventing congestions by promoting intermodality, through the 'Marco Polo' programmes I and II, and with the adoption of new TEN-T Guidelines establishing a legal framework for the funding of motorways of the sea
  • Revision of the ‘Eurovignette’ directive, creating a harmonised EU framework for charging heavy goods vehicles on European motorways, so as to reflect the 'external costs' of transport, including environmental damage, congestion, and accidents and to promote the 'modal shift' (See EurActiv 15 December 2005). 
  • Improving infrastructure in the context of trans-European networks and integration of the new Member States into the network (see Euractiv 11 May 2004); 
  • Reinforcement of the position of railways, with the adoption of three packages of measures aimed at market liberalisation and harmonisation.