Freight jams unclogged, pollution down & F1 enters virus race

Your weekly update of all things transport [Photo: Shutterstock]

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This week’s edition is mostly dedicated to coronavirus news but there are hidden gems within for those of you that want a break from the outbreak.

For more developments, check our virus tracker hereAlso give our new Transport Vlog a watch.


🚗 Driven

Huge traffic jams at national borders prompted the EU to issue new practical advice on how to unclog vital freight arteries. ‘Green lanes’ should be set up and trucks should be processed in no more than 15 minutes. More details here.

A patchwork of different coronavirus measures had caused traffic jams of more than 60km in places and has made repatriation efforts trickier still. Governments are responding positively to EU coordination: here’s a full list of what each country has implemented.

Germany plans to put a carbon price of €25 per tonne on the road transport sector next year but politicians are starting to suggest that it should be delayed. The Commission’s assessment of including road vehicles in the carbon market is also reportedly on ice.

Denmark’s bid to grant state aid for more rail and road links with Germany got the green light from Brussels, as the Commission’s competition and antitrust services continue to burn the candle at both ends.

Coronavirus has decimated the sporting calendar, Formula One included. Its highly-skilled engineers now want to lend a hand to the virus-war-effort and hope to start producing life-saving ventilators as early as this week.

An attempt at the electric motorcycle land-speed record will also have to wait. Voxan Motors – HQ’d in Monaco – had hoped to smash the 351km/h benchmark in Bolivia this summer but quarantine measures have put it on hold.

E-scooter and e-bike companies started to pull their vehicles off the streets of Brussels, while public transport use across the globe fell off a cliff edge.


🎥 More on road transport in this week’s Transport Vlog!


✈️  Sky-high

EU Council ambassadors signed off on an airport slots-waiver, in a bid to put an end to empty ‘ghost flights’. MEPs now have to give their approval too and I understand that the derogation will last until the end of October.

That will please airlines. Unlike new Commission guidelines on passenger rights, which fell short of the industry’s expectations. Brussels moved to clarify that ‘right to care’ and compensation rules will not be bypassed during the outbreak.

Despite coronavirus, the US imposed new tariffs on EU aircraft imports – the latest step in the Airbus-Boeing subsidies dispute. European lawmakers condemned the move.

Boeing – already struggling because of the 737 MAX scandal – shuttered production at its main base of operations because of coronavirus concerns. The head of US aviation regulator the FAA went into self-quarantine.

Airbus is weathering the storm more adeptly. Instead of calling for direct bailouts, the aerospace firm is lobbying for airlines to get state aid and its vast order book means it has room to manoeuvre. More – in German – here.

Air travel is at an all-time low and oil refiners are either looking to store jet fuel offshore or move production towards diesel, due to the lack of demand. The tourism sector also wants extra help to survive the crisis.

Police in Brussels have been using drones to remind people of the social-distancing measures in place, in scenes straight out of Minority Report. Make sure you sign up to the Digital Brief, penned weekly by my esteemed namesake colleague, Samuel Stolton


🚢  The Shipping News

Poland’s decision to close its border left hundreds of people stranded but ferry services between Germany and the Baltic States managed to return more than 700 to their homelands.

The International Maritime Organisation has decided to scrap nine high-level meetings as coronavirus forced the UN body to scrub its calendar through to the end of May.


🚀 Spaced-out

First Europe’s space programme suffered coronavirus delays and now NASA’s risks the same fate. The US agency’s plans to return to the moon in 2024 – already in jeopardy because of the intransigence of the White House – look in danger.

Rocket operator Ariane managed another successful launch, despite its main base in French Guyana being on lockdown. The group was able to put more broadband satellites in orbit from its Kazakhstan launchpad.


🚄 On track

British transport companies could be nationalised during the outbreak to prevent their collapse, the UK transport minister admitted, with train operators a prime candidate for state intervention. It de facto happened when Westminster suspended rail franchises yesterday.

French high-speed train service the TGV will be free for healthcare professionals during the crisis, to help speed doctors, nurses and paramedics to Paris, which is in dire need of more aid.

Croatia’s creaking rail network got an EU funding boost. It will get more than €100m to invest in electric trains. German manufacturer Siemens also got its first order for battery-powered trains. 


Picture of the week

Did you ever think you would see the Belgian-Dutch border sealed off in such a way? 


Next stops

MEPs meet virtually to vote on a whole host of coronavirus-related measures, with the ghost-flights waiver the main bit of transport news to look out for.

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