‘Green’ transport projects to receive fresh EU cash

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Railways and inland waterways will receive the lion’s share of EU funding for trans-European transport network (TEN-T) projects for the period 2007 to 2013, the Commission has announced.

The EU’s limited funds available for financing transport infrastructure across Europe, for the period 2007-2013, will be concentrated on projects related to “critical cross-border sections” and on “the most environmentally-friendly transport modes – inland waterways and rail”, the EU’s Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot told members of Parliament on 21 November.

The Commission received 221 project proposals from member states, with support requests totaling over €11.5 billion. However, with a Community budget limited at just €5.1 billion, the Commissioner explained that he preferred to concentrate these funds on a limited amount of important projects, rather than spreading them out among all of them. He said this would help create a “leverage” effect and accelerate the realisation of projects important for removing remaining transport bottlenecks and for the effective functioning of the single market. 

Underlining the EU’s commitment to sustainable development, Barrot pointed out that inland waterways would receive “maximum possible funding”, receiving as much as 11.5% of the total budget. Railways will get 74.2% of total funds, while roads receive just 2.7%. 

The Commission is also proposing to allocate funds to two “traffic management” projects aimed at optimising existing infrastructure: 

  • €350 million to the SESAR project, which aims to create a ‘single European sky’ that will help deal with the increasing number of flights that arriving and departing from European airports, while also helping to contribute to fuel savings and cutting CO2 emissions. 
  • €100 million for intelligent road transport systems, to help optimise infrastructure capacity, promote intermodality and improve the safety of road networks. 

EU Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot explained that the Commission's financing choices were "more concentrated than in the past, creating a leverage effect to allow or accelerate the realisation of essential European infrastructures". 

"If we had wanted to give this strong impulse to all the projects that deserved Community support during the seven-year period, it is not €5.1 billion that we would have needed to dispose of but €7.4 billion," he stressed, adding: "Faced with these European budget insufficiencies, member states will have to live up to their responsibilities by mobilising the additional national budgets necessary to the realisation of the TEN-T." 

French Socialist MEP Gilles Savary welcomed the Commission's "rigourous and transparent arbitration" in the choice of projects, saying it had successfully "avoided a sterile and inefficient powdering [of funds] to the benefit of a concentration of credits on cross-border regions and bottlenecks." 

He highlighted the "glaring paradox of member states, who responded to a first call for projects with 168 proposals worth €11.5 billion, after having meagrely conceded €5.111 billion for the TEN-T budget for the 2007-2013 period." 

He also welcomed the Commission's decision to propose priority financing for the cleanest transport modes. 

The Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER) also welcomed the Commission's plans but lamented that "the absolute amount of available funds is lagging far behind the actual needs". 

CER Executive Director Johannes Ludewig said: "EU funds are only a small part of what Europe has to invest in transport infrastructure in order to cope with the growing freight transport across the continent." 

He believes that, by 2020, a total investment of €145 billion will be needed to create the necessary capacity for goods to be transported via rail. "We will have to pay in any case [...] If it is not for the infrastructure investments into a sustainable transport system, the taxpayer will have to pay for the costs of pollution, congestion and accidents," he warned. He also called for a system where these external costs are included in user charges, according to the 'polluter-pays principle', and then re-invested in infrastructure projects. 

The construction of a trans-European transport network (TEN-T), where national networks for all modes of transport are accessible, interconnected and interoperable, is fundamental to securing a single market with free movement of passengers and goods, as well as for reinforcing economic ties and social cohesion and promoting competitiveness and sustainable development in the European Union. 

After lengthy negotiations, member states downgraded the Commission's proposals to spend as much as €20 billion to the development of the trans-European transport network, and a total of €8.013 billion was finally allocated to under the multi-annual financial framework 2007-2013 – of which €5.1 billion for 30 priority projects, deemed essential for completing cross-border connections among the EU's 27 member states.

The Commission published a first call for proposals for these projects in May 2007, in the hope that the 30 priority axes could be completed by 2020. 

The EU is only entitled to contribute to projects at maximum rates of 10 to 30% - depending on the type of project (see LinksDossier on TEN-Ts). The rest of the money must come from national or private budgets. 

 

  • The short-listed projects are now sent to the member states and to the Parliament for approval.
  • Final project funding decisions are expected at the beginning of 2008.

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