Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Fifth Report


The Transport, Local Government and the Regions Committee has agreed to the following Report:



1. The White Paper, European Transport Policy for 2010: Time to Decide, which was adopted by the European Commission on 12 September 2001, sets out what the Commission claims to be a strategy for creating an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable transport system for the European Union. The central objective of the White Paper is to break the link between economic and transport growth and to reduce the importance of road and air transport in favour of the alternatives of rail, inland waterways and shipping.[1] Greater demand for transport across the European Union has not been matched by the increased provision of transport infrastructure; the average proportion of Member States' Gross Domestic Product invested in new infrastructure has indeed fallen by half since the early 1980s.[2] The White Paper claims that this has created problems related to congestion, pollution, safety and energy dependency that will worsen if demand for transport continues to increase as e7xpected.[3] The Commission's response to this situation is to suggest around 60 measures to meet the expected increase in demand for transport by 2010 in acceptable ways. The feasibility of reducing or limiting demand is not addressed.

2. The Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions invited comments from interested parties on the White Paper in order to help the Government to formulate its response.[4] The deadline for responding to the consultation was 31 January 2002. The Committee decided to undertake its own examination of the Commission's proposals because of their implications for the Government's transport policy and in order to assist the Department in developing its response to the White Paper which will be considered at the forthcoming Council of Ministers' meeting on 26 March 2002. To that end the Minister should incorporate this Report's recommendations in his representations to the Council. The Transport Sub-Committee took oral evidence on the White Paper from Mr Hugh Rees, Head of the Sectoral Economics Unit in the Energy and Transport Directorate of the European Commission on 23 January 2002. We are most grateful for his assistance and for that of our specialist advisors: Mr Chris Bolt, Mr Robert Gifford, Professor Phil Goodwin and Mr Laurie Price.


3. Although it is formally described as being a White Paper, the Sub-Committee was told that European Transport Policy for 2010: Time to Decide is more of "a white-green paper" as the Commission was attempting to use it to stimulate a debate on transport within the European Union.[5] The document spells out the Commission's views on current transport problems and what it sees as the way forward.[6]


Shifting the balance between modes of transport

4. The White Paper contends that there is a growing imbalance between the use of the different forms of transport within the European Union. Greater use of road and air transport has led to congestion, while the potential of rail and short-sea shipping as alternatives to road haulage have yet to be realised. In order to address this problem, the Commission has set objectives of achieving regulated competition between different types of transport and creating more closely integrated transport networks to encourage intermodal services by 2010. The White Paper includes measures intended to:

5. Although the White Paper acknowledges the important links between transport and other policy areas, such as land-use planning, it does not consider those in detail or how their closer integration could address the worsening transport problems that are faced by the Member States.

Eliminating bottlenecks

6. The persistence and size of many of the bottlenecks on the main international routes are causing a major problem for Europe's transport system. The White Paper argues that the internal market and the territorial cohesion of the European Union will not be fully realised unless its infrastructure is interconnected and free of bottlenecks to improve the flow of people and freight.[8] Some of the projects involve road improvements, despite the objective of reducing the use of cars and lorries. The Commission concedes that progress with implementing the trans-European network has been slow. A two-stage revision of the existing guidelines on its development is proposed. The first stage is intended to ensure, amongst other things, that resources are focussed on the elimination of bottlenecks. A more extensive revision of the guidelines is planned for 2004.[9] Other measures outlined in the White Paper include an increase in the proportion of European Union funding for projects that will remove the main bottlenecks on the trans-European network; the creation of a framework for raising revenue for new infrastructure by levying charges on users of existing routes; and the harmonisation of minimum safety standards for road and rail tunnels on the trans-European network.[10]


Placing users at the heart of transport policy

7. The White Paper says that the transport system should meet the needs and expectations of all of its users and to do this people "need to be put back at the heart of transport policy".[11] In practice this means improvements in road safety and making the costs of using transport infrastructure transparent. The Commission believes that people want to know exactly what they are paying for when they use motorways or public transport. The White Paper includes proposals to charge for the use of transport infrastructure. It also proposes to impose harmonised taxes on commercial road transport fuel.[12]

Managing the globalisation of transport

8. The Commission thinks that it is time for the European Union to take a more important international role if it is to develop a sustainable transport system. Amongst other measures, the White Paper says that provision will have to be made for linking the new Member States to the trans-European network and funding infrastructure investment in those countries.[13] The Commission also argues that, while the European Union conducts a large part of its trade outside its own borders, it has little say in the international rules that govern much of its transport. It believes that this situation should be rectified quickly by having the Community take full membership of the inter-governmental organisations that regulate transport.[14]

1   European Transport Policy for 2010: Time to Decide, p.15 Back

2   Q 3. Back

3   The Commission forecasts that demand for passenger and freight transport could increase by up to 20-25 per cent and 40 per cent respectively by 2010 (Q 3).  Back

4   European Common Transport Policy White Paper Consultation, DTLR, November 2001, Annex A. Back

5   Q 3. Back

6   QQ 5-9. Back

7   European Transport Policy for 2010: Time to Decide, pp. 22-48. Back

8   European Transport Policy for 2010: Time to Decide, p. 49. Back

9   European Transport Policy for 2010: Time to Decide, p. 50. Back

10   European Transport Policy for 2010: Time to Decide, pp. 58-60. Back

11   European Transport Policy for 2010: Time to Decide, p. 65. Back

12   European Transport Policy for 2010: Time to Decide, pp. 65-85. Back

13   European Transport Policy for 2010: Time to Decide, p. 88. Back

14   European Transport Policy for 2010: Time to Decide, p. 92. Back

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