Select Committee on European Scrutiny Forty-First Report





Draft Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council amending the guidelines for the transport Trans-European Network.

Legal base:Articles 154,155 and 156 EC; co-decision; qualified majority voting
Document originated:26 September 2002
Deposited in Parliament:14 October 2002
Basis of consideration:EM of 24 October 2002
Previous Committee Report:None
To be discussed in Council:No date set
Committee's assessment:Politically important
Committee's decision:For debate in European Standing Committee A


  2.1  In October 2001 the Commission proposed a draft Decision to amend the guidelines for development of the transport Trans-European Network (TEN). The transport TEN is intended to "enable citizens of the European Union to derive full benefit from the setting up of an area without internal frontiers", and the existing guidelines identify the main road, rail and inland waterway routes along with ports and airports of common European interest.

  2.2  The main changes proposed by the Commission were:

  • measures to achieve a rail freight network and rail connections with ports that promote short sea shipping and the use of inland waterways;

  • promotion of integration between rail and air transport;

  • plans for interoperable intelligent transport systems;

  • amendment of the list of priority projects, removing three completed projects (Malpensa airport, the Öresund bridge/tunnel and the Cork-Belfast rail link) and adding six new ones:

  • the global navigation and positioning satellite system (Galileo);

  • a high-capacity trans-Pyrenees rail link;

  • an East European (Stuttgart-Vienna) Combined Transport/High Speed Train;

  • Danube river improvement, Vilshofen-Straubing;

  • high-speed rail interoperability in Iberia; and

  • the Fehmarn Belt fixed link between Denmark and Germany;

  • encouragement of strategic environmental assessment of future extensions to the network; and

  • correction of maps to include missing links and to show technical updates.

  2.3  This draft Decision was cleared from scrutiny after a debate in European Standing Committee A on 13 March 2002.[2]

The document

  2.4  The Commission has revised its original draft following the European Parliament's first reading. The revised draft still covers the matters in paragraph 2.2 above, but it now has a more explicit reference to further revision of the guidelines scheduled for 2004; the current proposal is seen as the first stage in the revision process with a second, more fundamental revision to follow. And there is a new reference to a need for a significant increase in the next financial perspective (which will run from 2007).

  2.5  However the Commission's revised draft has been largely overtaken by events. A text based on the original proposal was tabled for political agreement at the Council on 3 October 2002. It incorporated changes developed and agreed during meetings of the Council Working Group. Political agreement was not secured. The area of difficulty concerned the principle of additions to the list of priority projects and not the main body of the text itself. This matter remains fraught: there are now 22 new projects proposed for inclusion by Member States. The UK is amongst the majority of Member States arguing that there should be no change to the list in advance of the fundamental review due in 2004. However the UK has proposed, without prejudice to its position on the principle, the inclusion of the East Coast Mainline rail project.

The Government's view

  2.6  The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Mr David Jamieson) tells us

"The UK position on the guidelines has not changed since the previous Explanatory Memorandum was submitted (12597/01). The UK continues to support the Commission's assessment that measures are needed to address bottlenecks on the TEN, to promote short sea shipping, to promote integration between rail and air, to maximise interoperability of intelligent transport systems and to facilitate links between the TEN and the transport network in the accession countries. We also continue to support the emphasis on environmental assessment of future extensions to the TEN.

"We still have concerns about the proposed addition of six new priority projects, none of which is in the UK. However, one of the six, the Galileo satellite navigation project, has already reached an advanced stage of discussion with the release of TEN funds for the development phase having been agreed at the March 2002 Transport Council. We would therefore be ready as a compromise to add it to the priority project list — if it meant that the claims of the other five proposed priority projects were not pursued at this stage. There is insufficient evidence to demonstrate that the remaining five are indeed Europe's top priorities. This is important for the UK because any new priority projects are certain to attract significant financial support from the Community, particularly with the Commission's proposal to increase the amount of TEN support the Community can contribute from 10% to 20% of project costs. More funds for these projects would undoubtedly lead to a reduction in the amount of funding available for UK projects. Along with most other Member States, the UK would prefer to see decisions on new priority projects postponed until the more fundamental revision of the guidelines scheduled for 2004.

"The are two other areas of the revised text that run counter to UK interests. The first is the renewed emphasis in the revised proposal to developing a rail network giving priority to freight. Although the concept was included in the original text, the version tabled for political agreement had been softened to refer to appropriate priority to be given to rail freight. This was acceptable to the UK where it is very important that the needs of the passenger network are not adversely affected by freight traffic.

       "The revised text also makes a new and unwelcome reference to a need to increase the amount of TEN funds in the next financial perspective, which runs from 2007. We believe such a presumption is premature and should in any case be considered as a formal proposal under the provisions of EU Budgetary procedures."

  2.7  The Minister also mentions that the related draft Council Regulation about the financing of TEN projects, which we cleared on 6 March 2002[3] and which was also discussed by European Standing Committee A on 13 March 2002, is still under discussion.

  2.8  Finally, the Minister tells us:

"We understand that the Danish Presidency does not plan to seek an agreement at the December 2002 Transport Council. The intentions of the Greek Presidency in the first half of 2003 are not yet known. With a further revision to the TEN Guidelines scheduled for 2004, it is possible that the current proposals will not now be taken forward and will be incorporated into the Commission's proposals in 2004, leaving the provisions [the existing guidelines] of Decision 1692/96/EC[4] to stand."


  2.9  We note the Government's continued opposition to premature expansion of the list of priority projects and its new concerns about renewed emphasis on freight as opposed to passenger rail transport and the threat to the next financial perspective ceiling. We note also the Minister's expectation that this draft Decision might not be carried forward. We support the Government in pressing for additions to the list of priority projects to be dependent on the fundamental review in 2004, rather than ad hoc additions being made now.

  2.10  The whole matter of the transport TEN and the choice of projects under it remains of such great importance that we recommend the document for debate in European Standing Committee A.

2   Official Report, European Standing Committee A, cols 3-28. Back

3   (23038) 15111/01; see HC 152-xx (2001-02), paragraph 16. Back

4   OJ L 228, 9.9.1996, p.1. Back

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Prepared 25 November 2002