Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirty-Sixth Report

1 Transport policy



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COM(06) 314

Commission Communication: Keep Europe moving — sustainable mobility for our continent: Mid-term review of the Commission's 2001 Transport White Paper

Legal base
Document originated22 June 2006
Deposited in Parliament4 July 2006
Basis of considerationEM of 13 July 2006
Previous Committee ReportNone
To be discussed in Council12 October 2006
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionFor debate in European Standing Committee


1.1 The Commission's 2001 White Paper "European Transport Policy for 2010: Time to decide" proposed a comprehensive strategy aimed primarily at shifting the balance of transport in Europe from road and aviation towards rail, shipping and intermodal operations by 2010. It discussed, in particular, the increasing problems of congestion on road and rail routes, in towns and at airports and the harmful effects of transport on the environment and public health and the heavy toll of road accidents. The White Paper itself had no legislative or executive force but in it the Commission proposed an integrated package of some 60 measures. The White Paper also outlined what the Commission thought national and local governments should be doing themselves in the transport field and in other areas such as urban and land-use planning and budget and fiscal policy.

1.2 The previous Committee considered the White Paper in January 2002 and it was debated in European Standing Committee A in March 2002.[1]

The document

1.3 This document reviews developments since the 2001 White Paper, discusses the present transport situation and sets out the Commission's broad strategy on transport and details key actions over the coming years — like the White Paper it has no legislative or executive force. Unlike the fairly focused nature of the White Paper the document adopts a broad-brush approach, outlining the key themes in general terms.

1.4 In the opening two sections of the document the Commission sets out its present view of the objectives for transport policy:

  • mobility for people and businesses; and
  • protection of the environment, passengers and citizens, ensuring energy security and promoting minimum labour standards.

In support of these aims are two further objectives:

  • innovation so as to increase the efficiency and sustainability of the sector; and
  • acting in international for a so as to promote the Community's transport policies.

1.5 The Commission suggests that these objectives are relevant to the Lisbon Strategy for growth and jobs and the renewed EU Sustainable Development Strategy (EU SDS).[2] It discusses the objectives in the context both of the changing environment for the sector — enlargement, consolidation of businesses and globalisation, innovation, environmental commitments, energy consumption, international terrorism and development of the internal market — and of the implementation of policies set out in the White Paper, including legislation on:

  • opening-up of rail freight transport to competition;
  • upgrading social conditions in the road transport sector;
  • definition of 30 Trans-European Network priority projects;
  • creation of the European Single Sky;
  • strengthening of aviation passenger rights;
  • the new road charging Directive;
  • promotion of intermodal transport; and
  • reinforcement of the legal framework in maritime safety.

1.6 In the remaining sections of the document the Commission discusses a number of key topics:

  • sustainable mobility in the internal market so as to facilitate business. It suggests that the market is quite well developed for road and developing for rail so that efforts should be focused on implementation of existing law and removal of technical barriers to mobility. Similarly the review argues that the internal market in air transport is a reality and should now be extended to areas such as airports and air navigation services — together with measures to mitigate environmental effects of aviation. But it suggests a need to create a "common maritime space" and a common ports policy;
  • sustainable mobility for the citizen, that is reliable, safe and secure transport. This section looks at a range of issues including labour conditions, service quality, safety, security and urban transport;
  • transport and energy, highlighting the impact of transport on oil dependency and on emissions. The section emphasises technological solutions for these problems, including alternative fuels and intelligent vehicle energy management systems;
  • optimising infrastructure — reducing congestion and improving accessibility, highlighting the need for infrastructure investment, especially at bottlenecks, and the mobilisation of all funding sources for this purpose. The section looks at designing infrastructure to enable "co-modality", that is optimising use of each transport mode and combining modes where appropriate, and at the use of smart charging to reduce congestion and protect the environment;
  • intelligent mobility, in relation to routing, timing and choice of modality, through integrated logistics chains deploying co-modality to ensure that freight is delivered speedily and intelligent transport systems, for instance for communications, which could soon be installed in cars, trains and ships as well as in aircraft. In this section attention is drawn to current projects such as Galileo (the global satellite navigation system), SESAR (the air traffic management system for the European Single Sky) and ERTMS (the traffic management system for European railways); and
  • the global dimension, noting the potential benefits of international co-operation and asserting the Community could become a more effective global player than individual Member States.

1.7 The document annexes an impact assessment which looks at the results of the research, consultations and arguments considered in developing the review. This includes four studies analysing the implementation of the 2001 White Paper policy, a consultation with Member States, a stakeholder conference and a large internet consultation. The assessment discusses three possible approaches. A "current" option would continue with existing measures. A "deepening" option would focus on fully achieving the quantitative targets, for instance in relation to modal shift, of the White Paper with further development and strengthening of existing measures such as road charging. A "widening" option would broaden the range of measures to be utilised. The assessment favours adoption of the "current" and "widening" options and implicitly rejects the "deepening" option.

The Government's view

1.8 The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Dr Stephen Ladyman) comments that the Commission's review marks a significant move away from the 2001 White Paper, with its focus on modal shift from road and aviation towards rail, shipping and inter-modal operations to a new emphasis on improving mobility by whatever means are available. He tells us that it is not possible to comment on the implications of all of the suggestions made by the Commission — in some cases there is insufficient information in the document to make a sensible judgement and it will be necessary to seek further information or await the publication of formal proposals. And many of the proposed measures are simply a continuation of existing ones. So the Minister confines himself to what the Government perceives to be the key issues and, in particular, changes of direction.

1.9 First, the Minister mentions rail liberalisation noting that the Commission says nothing further on this. He says that the Government is in favour of taking the final step and liberalising domestic passenger services and will push for this to happen. But the Minister continues that the fact that this is not mentioned in the document suggests that the Commission may not be receptive, although it is likely that it will be pushed by the European Parliament.

1.10 Secondly, in relation to charging for the use of infrastructure the Minister says that the Commission:

  • has long argued that failure of transport infrastructure users always to pay the costs they generate impairs the functioning of the single market and distorts competition within the transport system;
  • continues to argue in favour of some degree of excise tax harmonisation and diversion of infrastructure charging funds to public transport; and
  • now further proposes to develop a methodology for infrastructure charging.

He says the Government will consider carefully any methodology which might emerge.

1.11 Thirdly the Minister, noting that the document proposes a seamless internal shipping market, says that, given that the internal shipping market is open to international competition between Member States and for Community shipping within Member States, it is not clear what is being proposed or what this is intended to address. Similarly, the review identifies the common maritime area concept, outlined in the recent maritime Green Paper[3] as a major underpinning of maritime policy, but this is a very new and untested idea. The Minister says the Government will seek to probe these concepts with a view to establishing a position.

1.12 Finally, in relation to the matter of the Community as a global player and the Commission's strong emphasis of potential benefits of the Member States acting together on the international stage, the Minister tells us the Government has strong reservations about suggestions that the Community could supersede Member States in this role, for example by moving from enhanced observer status to full member status in various organisations.


1.13 This document touches on a very wide range of transport policy and related matters and marks a convenient point to examine developments in the Community's transport policy generally. To that end we recommend the document for debate in European Standing Committee (which does not need to take place before Council discussion of the document). Such a debate, as well as looking at the issues of further rail liberalisation, charging for infrastructure use, the internal shipping market, a common maritime area and the role of the Community in international organisations concerned with transport matters, could canvass with the Minister progress on any of the transport policy measures in the document and, more generally, the Commission's ambitions for the common transport policy.

1   (22660) 11932/01 (22776) 12597/01: See HC 152-xv (2001-02), para 2 (30 January 2002) and Stg Co Deb, European Standing Committee A, 13 March 2002, cols. 3-28. Back

2   The EU SDS, contained in Council document 10117/06, was adopted by the European Council of 15/16 June 2006. Because of the way it originated and was processed it was not subjected to national parliamentary scrutiny. Back

3   Council document 11510/06 on which we are expecting an Explanatory Memorandum in due course. Back

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