VW gets honest, Alitalia inquest & the divine path

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

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🚗 Driven

Volkswagen agreed to pay out up to €830m in Dieselgate compensation to German motorists. Affected buyers have a short time to accept the cash on offer or launch their own legal cases.

The carmaker is in full atonement-mode for its role in cheating emissions tests with defeat devices: VW’s CEO said he is hiring an “aggressive” internal climate activist to keep the firm honest.

Germany’s car industry cut its 2020 forecast by 700,000 vehicles because of coronavirus’ impact on the supply chain. It marks a third straight year of declining sales.

The Geneva car show is one of the many events to fall victim to corona-cancellation. The opening round of the Moto GP calendar in Qatar has also been called off.

At a meeting of industry ministers last week, Germany’s representative again urged the Commission to leave car CO2 standards alone. Brussels intends to see if the new rules can be tightened up.

Council delegates also signed off on new tyre-labelling rules, aimed at helping buyers make more fuel-efficient choices. Now it is up to the Parliament to give final approval.

Luxembourg became the first country in the world to axe public transport fees. But there are already concerns that it will lead to an investment gap in services. Cross-border ticket prices have already reportedly gone up.

Initial findings from a study in Denmark show that e-scooter journeys mostly replace public transport trips or walking, rather than car journeys. The authors cite the need for more research but have a look at the full report (in Danish).

The European Investment Bank shelled out €140m to help complete a mega-motorway between Budapest and the Adriatic coast, through Bosnia. 

In Greece, building road projects requires a helping hand from the Almighty, as this priest revealed last week.


✈️ Sky-high

Italy’s €400m loan to struggling national carrier Alitalia is under investigation by the Commission. Rome insists it is to help the airline find a buyer, Brussels says the probe will “provide clarity”. The Commission also opened an inquest into Ryanair.

UK airport Heathrow’s third runway is “unlawful”, according to a British court, because the planning process did not take the Paris Agreement into account. Heathrow intends to appeal, while the government does not.

European ministers have been urged to make sure a global aviation emissions offsetting scheme (known as CORSIA) works as planned, as delegates meet in Montreal at the International Civil Aviation Organisation. 

Air France announced that it will lay off 1,500 employees by 2022, in what is an early response to the economic impact of coronavirus. Talks are ongoing with trade unions but the job losses will mostly affect ground crew.

Scandinavian Airlines reported higher-than-expected losses, after a mix of cancelled China flights and drop in demand, caused by environmental awareness, played their part.

Air New Zealand is toying with the idea of offering economy passengers ‘sleeping pods’ for long-haul journeys. The plan will require regulatory approval though, as the bunks are a completely new concept for an aircraft.


🚢 The Shipping News

International Maritime Organisation (IMO) rules on burning sulphurous fuels became stricter on 1 March. Shippers are now prohibited from even carrying illegal fuel. For the last two months, there has been a phase-in period in force.

The IMO is also working on standardised guidelines for dockside charging and refuelling of ships with fuels like ammonia and hydrogen. The UN agency hopes to sign off on a common rulebook this week.

Turkey is escalating relations when it comes to migration but also energy policy. Ankara has reportedly bought a new drill ship to deploy around Cyprus, which is also the subject of a dispute over territory and hydrocarbons.

Estonia will revitalise Tallinn’s old port with €100m in EBRD money. The area will be familiar to anyone who went to the Estonian capital during the Baltic nation’s EU presidency, as that is where many of the events were held.

The Commission decided that payments made to an Italian ferry company were largely in line with state aid rules but some aid was illegal. Rome will have to recover €15m.


🚄 On track

Italian railway firm Trenitalia is on the verge of offering high-speed services between Paris and Milan, which will mean direct competition with France’s SNCF. Planned for June, it might actually be deferred until December when timetables change.

Trenitalia also saw its bid to buy Spanish train firm ILSA get the green light from the Commission. 

Think your commute is bad? Check out this footage from Tokyo and the lengths people will go to in order to get to work on time.


🚀 Spaced-out

Brexit talks started yesterday. Rules related to trains, plane and automobiles are all included in the negotiating mandates, as well as space. The UK confirmed it will not seek tailored access to the EU’s global positioning satellite, Galileo.

Two commercial satellites docked with one another in outer space for the very first time, in what is a step forward in efforts to repair and reuse orbiters, rather than letting them crash to earth or float around as junk in the cosmos.

Boeing’s bid to certify its Starliner spacecraft for active manned service hit a snag, as NASA revealed that the US aerospace giant had skipped certain steps in the testing phase. 

A joint mission between Europe and Russia to send a rover to Mars has hit problems too: there are fears the complex parachute system, designed to let the machine land safely on the red planet’s surface, is not up to the job.


Picture of the week

How things have changed: this is roughly want the first stretch of passenger railway line looked like all the way back in the 1800s in Mechelen, Belgium.


What else I’m reading and watching

  • The disappearing sound of airports [BBC]
  • The world’s most dysfunctional train [National Post]
  • Frankfurt flights grounded by drone [DW]

Next stops

Environment ministers meet 5 March. Among the agenda points is a discussion on air quality. Full calendar here.

ICAO’s Council session started Monday and will last until 20 March.

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