As much as 20% of Europe’s GDP is supported by road transport, according to a new study by the European Union Road Federation which rejects the Commission’s 2001 idea of operating a ‘modal shift’ to rail.
Lobbyists are now fighting for the attention of the European Commission ahead of a review of the Union’s transport policy, due by the end of April.
The EU’s main objectives on transport policy were defined in the 2001 White Paper as:
- to achieve a better balance between road and other modes of transport and create conditions for a ‘modal shift’, away from road;
- to ‘decouple’ transport growth from rising economic activity;
- to ensure the costs of different transports reflect their ‘external costs’; (including environmental damage, congestion, human casualties, etc.);
- to reduce casualties, particularly on roads.
However, since then, the Commission has highlighted some “outstanding developments” that give good reason for an update of the EU’s transport policy. It highlighted these as:
- EU enlargement to ten new countries;
- weak economic growth;
- high oil prices;
- safety concerns.
In a speech last year, Commission Vice-President and EU Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot said the EU should reconsider its policy to decouple transport growth from economic growth. “I think we have evolved on this question,” Barrot told a debate organised by the European Policy Centre (EPC) on 5 June 2005. “Mobility has become an essential factor for competitiveness, one should not restrain it when our growth levels are low.”