EU says new cash flows urgent for transport networks

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The EU is behind schedule and lacks the necessary budget to complete the 30 infrastructure projects it has highlighted as essential to connecting the territories of the EU’s 27 members and meeting the bloc’s ambitious climate targets, according to a new report.

“It is very clear today that significant parts of the 30 priority projects will not be completed until 2015 or even 2020,” said the report, presented to the EU’s 27 transport ministers by Commission Vice-President Jacques Barrot at an informal meeting on 6 May. 

According to Barrot, one third of the projects have been completed so far, but additional financing will be needed to complete these crucial transport corridors, he added. 

Indeed, the report finds that the cost of the 30 flagship trans-European transport network (TEN-T) projects has risen by 16.8% compared to original projections. 

Yet, as Barrot pointed out, spending on transport infrastructure in the EU, as a share of total GDP, has actually fallen from 1.5% in 1980 to 0.5% today. “This fall in investments in Europe is not a good sign,” he stressed, saying that expenditure would need to rise to “at least 1%” in order for the projects to be fully completed on time. 

Without this, he said, Europe risks missing its target to reduce its overall greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020 (see LinksDossier on climate change policies). Indeed, transport accounts for roughly 26% of total CO2 emissions with road transport alone accounting for 84% of this figure. 

Among the 30 priority corridors, 18 are railway projects and two are inland waterway and shipping projects – the aim of which is to ensure a shift away from road to these greener modes of transport. “The EU Council must be aware that in order to reduce CO2 emissions by 20% by 2020 […] it must be possible to set up the infrastructure by then […] If you don’t have true corridors, you’ll have trouble making the shift from road to rail,” Barrot stressed to ministers. 

He added that funds for road projects would also help to ease bottlenecks, like those at borders and on routes through the Alps and the Pyrenees. A key tool for raising investment will be public-private partnerships, according to Barrot, who stressed the importance of leveraging more private funds via the use of the TEN-T funds, regional funds and European Investment Bank loans. 

A package on “greening transport”, due to be presented by Barrot in June, could also help raise more funds for transport infrastructure (EURACTIV 23/04/08). Indeed, a key aim of the initiative will be to incorporate the external costs related to transport, including its environmental impact, in tolls and other road user charges. The money could then be re-invested in transport infrastructure, although as yet there is no agreement on this. 

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