Valean victory, IMO in slow lane & Blade Runner trucking

Your weekly update of all things transport

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There is finally a transport Commissioner! (In waiting at least). Romania’s Adina-Ioana Vălean, a long-time MEP and current head of the energy committee, got the nod from her colleagues after what was branded an underwhelming hearing.

Vălean is now set to take over from Slovenia’s Violeta Bulc, making her only the third woman to hold the position. If the full Commission team is approved by the Parliament then she could start work on 1 December.

The new transport chief was criticised during and after her hearing for downplaying the chances of a kerosene tax to make aviation pay its way more. The Greens wanted her to answer more questions but their suggestion was dismissed by other groups.


The Shipping News

Shipping can expect attention during Vălean’s mandate though. She confirmed that she will oversee the roll out of the emissions trading scheme to cover the sector and will push for more ambition at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).

The IMO wrapped up talks last week on how to achieve a self-imposed target to halve emissions by 2050 and possibly avoid ETS coverage. Ideas include a $2/tonne fuel tax, engine limits and a lower speed limit, although the latter proposal faces pushback.

Sources told me that the voluntary so-called Engine Power Limitation (ELP) is far too open to cheating and that national delegates are now starting to realise that firm regulation is the only way to cut emissions and reach the IMO target.

The Commission has opened a state aid inquest into Italian ports enjoying tax-free status. Spain has already agreed to start charging harbours the correct amount but Italy has yet to chart the same course.



Belgium’s Antwerp and Ostend airports are both eligible for state assistance though, according to the Berlaymont. About €10 million in aid will help develop the Flemish region, its inquest concluded.

At the ongoing Dubai airshow, Airbus secured billions in new orders. CEO Guillaume Faury said that the new business shows that the planemaker’s A350 offering is the “talented younger brother” of the now-axed A380 superjumbo. 

Airbus has also teased the prospect of an emission-free regional jet, which could be on runways sometime in the 2030s. Electric power, greater fuel efficiency and aerodynamic tweaks are all on the list of possible changes.

The head of budget airline Wizz Air derided the carbon-neutral pledges of fellow airlines British Airways and KLM, warning that those legacy carriers do not have the financial clout needed to legitimately change the industry.

A long-awaited update to the European Investment Bank’s energy policy got the green light last week but attention has now turned to how the EU lender puts money into airports, roads and ports. I am told that a review of that policy could happen next year. Stay tuned.


On track

Eurostar is celebrating its 25th anniversary. The Brussels-London-Paris-Amsterdam link could extend into Germany in 2020 if the company manages to broker a deal with Belgian high-speed operator Thalys.

Plans to introduce a direct Amsterdam-London route that does not require passengers to get off in Brussels to clear immigration are on hold, as the UK government needs to sign off on the details. Election rules mean Westminster is prohibited from doing so at the moment.

Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party has pledged half a billion to reopen closed branch lines. But rail buffs have pointed out that the fund would only be enough to resurrect around 30km of railway.

Railway industry group CER has revealed how the EU should use the pending Green Deal to help shift freight and passengers to rail, by ending subsidies for aviation and revising the Energy Taxation Directive. Read all their suggestions here.

The Brussels-Vienna night-train, due to enter service in January, is already generating interest. Tickets are available so if you want to do your bit and help resurrect the sleeper concept, here is the link.



A European Court of Justice judge said that the threat of prison sentences cannot be used against German officials to implement diesel bans, even if they have been ordered to do so. Full opinion here.

The Netherlands has proposed slashing its day-time motorway speed limit from 130km/h to just 100km/h, as part of the government’s struggle to meet a court-ordered increase of its climate action ambition.

Nuclear power is generally associated with the energy sector or, at a stretch, shipping. But US utilities have banded together to see if they can generate hydrogen, which could then be used in road transport. Full story here.

US electric carmaker Tesla will set up its European manufacturing HQ near Berlin, according to company founder Elon Musk. Brexit uncertainty reportedly soured any notion of building the factory in the UK.


What else I’m reading or listening to

  • Boeing’s humans step in as robots fumble 777 jet assembly [Bloomberg]
  • Ford unveils all-electric Mustang [BBC]
  • E-plane racer makes debut in Dubai [E&T]
  • Gary Numan – Cars [YouTube]

Next stops

On Wednesday, join us in Brussels for a debate on if we are greening mobility fast enough and with the right options. Full details here.

The Dubai airshow is ongoing until 21 November. More big-budget orders for Airbus and not Boeing could reveal more about if the MAX 737 scandal has truly hurt the US maker.

On Thursday, Tesla will unveil its ‘Cybertruck’, its first foray into the electric pickup truck market, in Los Angeles. Rumours suggest that it will have on-board plugs for power tools and even be bulletproof. It will be unveiled on the same date in which 1982’s Blade Runner is set.

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