Interview news: Green NGO calls for higher prices for road and air transport

European Federation for Transport & Environment policy officer Stephanos Anastasiadis explains that the only way to achieve sustainable mobility is by ensuring that road and air transport pay their true ‘external costs’.

In an exclusive interview with EURACTIV, T&E policy officerStephanos Anastasiadisexplains how the EU and Member States can work together to promote ‘sustainable mobility’ (read the

full interview).

Sustainable mobility as an EU-Member State double act

In general terms Stephanos Anastasiadis sees sustainable mobility as an EU-Member State double act. His view is that it is up to the European institutions to set the legal framework (by, for example, stipulating strict environmental criteria in public transport tendering processes – which they have so far failed to do) while the Member States promote environmentally-friendly alternatives (such as car sharing).

Air and road transport are not paying their true ‘external costs’

“Many forms of transport are simply not paying for their external costs to the environment and society”, says Anastasiadis. Examples of external costs are: accidents, air pollution, climate change, noise nuisance and congestion. Passenger cars, trucks and aviation are said to have the highest external costs per transported unit. Anastasiadis wants the price of these forms of transport to reflect the harm they cause to the environment and to human health. In particular he deplores the fact that “the increase in low-cost flights has promoted a level of travel that would have been unthinkable 20 years ago”.

London’s congestion charge hailed as a success story

As a practical example of a proposal to help ensure that road transport pays its true ‘external costs’, he says that central London’s congestion charge has “helped cut congestion by 15% in the city, facilitating bus journeys, encouraging more cycling and improving air quality and the street environment”. He holds it up as an example of “courageous decision-making” for others to follow, noting that Stockholm are considering a similar scheme. Meanwhile T&E has rewritten a Commission proposal on revision of the Eurovignette Directive in which they propose that higher fees should be charged for the lorry charging system.

New transport projects “flawed”

Anastasiadis regards the thinking behind the 30 major new transport projects as “flawed”. He argues that, far from automatically bringing wealth, such projects (mainly roads) will damage the local populations they pass through economically, socially and environmentally.

Problem of air quality in new Member States?

A particular problem for new Member States is that of air quality. He says that there is an urgent need for action with the increasing volume of road traffic in large cities further exacerbating the problem.

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