The Transport Brief, powered by Neste – Overpromising and underdelivering on EU transport infrastructure

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Below you’ll find the latest roundup of mobility news from across Europe.

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A basic role of the media in a democracy is to point out when politicians promise to do something and fail to deliver.

Politicians are elected on a platform with the understanding that they will bring about a list of changes; if these changes don’t materialise – if the targets set out were unrealistic or the timeline preposterously optimistic – the pledge to the electorate hasn’t been fulfilled.

Journalists, regardless of whether they agree with the measure in private, should highlight this failing.

So, given the watchdog role of the media, why does it happen so frequently that politicians make grandiose promises that fizzle to nothing, often eluding any consequences?

One possible answer is time. It’s easy to make a fuss about an ambitious target today if it doesn’t have to be realised for another 10, 20, or 30 years (when the lawmaker will likely be out of office).

Long-term projects can generate great political capital in the short term with little downside.

And when it comes to overpromising and underdelivering, EU politicians are no exception.

A new report by the European Court of Auditors (ECA), a body tasked with monitoring EU spending, found that the EU’s strategic transport objectives are “overly ambitious and not always matched by real results”.

The report gives the example of the aim to triple the length of the EU’s high-speed rail network by 2030 as a target that is likely to be missed.

To better gauge the EU’s standing, the auditors compared the outcomes of similar transport projects undertaken in other countries including the United States, Canada, and Australia.

The findings showed that when it comes to project delays, Europe is lagging behind its peers.

“Delays are a – or perhaps ‘the’ – distinctive feature of EU projects compared to other countries,” the ECA said in a statement, noting that the average large transport infrastructure project in the EU is affected by an average delay of around 11 years.

It should be stated, however, that the EU is not in quite the same situation as the auditors’ comparators: The EU’s Trans-European Transport (TEN-T) core network, which has a completion date of 2030, is (as the name suggests) cross-border, which adds extra complexity.

Indeed, the auditors found that member states tend to prioritise national interests, with cross-border sections of projects neglected (Germany’s nonchalance towards constructing the northern access route to the Brenner Base Tunnel through the Alps, despite decades of Austrian, Italian, and EU investment, is highlighted).

There is, however, some good news, if you’re willing to accept the loosest definition of that term.

Cost overruns of EU transport projects tend to be in the region of 47% or €2 billion per project – this puts the EU squarely in line with the global average.

The EU may be slower than the rest of the world when it comes to transport infrastructure, but its cost increases are no better or worse.

A small consolation, perhaps.

To read the report, click here.


To tackle climate change, we need to reduce the amount of fossil fuels we use. Fast. The question is: how?

When it comes to reducing global transport emissions, there is no silver bullet. We need to combine a range of solutions from electricity and hydrogen to e-fuels and renewable fuels. Discover how we can power sustainable mobility.

Continue Reading >>


Uber drivers cleared from the streets of Brussels (mostly)

Residents of Brussels, the rain-soaked Belgian-capital-cum-Capital-of-Europe, saw their transport options shrink last Friday.

Uber, the controversial American taxi company (sorry, “ride-hailing service”) was essentially banned by the Brussels Appeal Court, who ruled that drivers could not use the Uber app while working.

Currently, only those holding a Flemish taxi licence can act as Uber drivers in the city. Previously, drivers could work for Uber with the equivalent of a limousine driver licence.

Some 2,000 drivers were affected by the decision, which is being hailed as a victory for traditional taxi companies, the type that still have a fax machine in their office.

In a statement, Uber said it is “disappointed by the court’s decision and deeply concerned for the drivers, as they will lose their ability to earn via the Uber app from Friday”.

In response, Uber is spamming users, begging them to sign a petition to show “solidarity” with the 2,000 drivers and their families.

While it is a tragedy to see so many people lose their livelihood, it seems disingenuous for Uber to lean so heavily on the “won’t someone think of the poor workers?!” rhetoric, given their own dubious tactics in the past.

For their part, Uber drivers protested the court’s ruling by blocking tunnels in Brussels, hobbling the city’s traffic flow.

The kerfuffle is likely to hasten plans to reform the city’s taxi sector (which is expected to allow some form of Uber on the streets in the future).


EU calls for halt to travellers arriving from southern Africa

Reports of the pandemic’s demise are greatly exaggerated, to paraphrase (badly) Mark Twain. Indeed, we’re back to a sort of numbing familiarity, as new restrictions are brought in across Europe to combat the virus and air travel is halted from some countries.

The new Omicron strain of COVID is a “variant of concern” according to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who advocates activating the “emergency brake” to stop air passengers from southern Africa from reaching the EU.

Britain has already temporarily banned flights from South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, and Eswatini.

However, moves by governments to impose travel restrictions were strongly criticised by IATA, a trade association representing airlines.

“Governments are responding to the risks of the new coronavirus variant in emergency mode causing fear among the travelling public. As quickly as possible we must use the experience of the last two years to move to a coordinated data-driven approach that finds safe alternatives to border closures and quarantine,” Willie Walsh, IATA’s director-general, said in a statement.

“Travel restrictions are not a long-term solution to control COVID variants,” he added.

Read more below.


A roundup of the most captivating transport news.

EU moves to halt air travel from southern Africa over COVID variant

The European Union aims to halt air travel from the southern African region amid rising concern about a new COVID-19 variant detected in South Africa, EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said on Friday (26 November).

‘Battery arms race’: how China has monopolised the electric vehicle industry

Think of an electric car and the first name that comes to mind will probably be Tesla. The California company makes the world’s bestselling electric car and was recently valued at $1tn. But behind this US success story is a tale of China’s manufacturing might. EURACTIV’s media partner, The Guardian Environment, reports.

Green Deal is a historic opportunity to fix our broken transport system

Cutting-edge technology may seem to offer the mobility solutions of the future but what is really needed is a remaking of our transport system to ensure it is accessible, affordable, and sustainable, argues Greens MEP Ciarán Cuffe.

Seabed activities raise risk of World War-era bombs detonating: Commissioner

Greater deep-sea economic activities increase the risk of harm from munitions and chemical weapons dumped into European seas during the first and second world wars, EU Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius has said.

New German government aims for at least 15 mln EVs by 2030

Germany aims to have at least 15 million electric cars on the roads by 2030 in its shift towards climate neutrality, up from a previous goal of 14 million, according to the coalition agreement of the incoming government published on Wednesday (24 November).

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