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EURO RAIL EXPERTISE


The EU’s new White Paper on transport, its ‘roadmap to a single European transport area’, shows the need for “radical overhaul” of the entire system, according to commissioner Siim Kallas, while MPs say it could have “significant implications” for the UK. RTM reports.


At


the heart of the EU’s White Paper on strategic transport policy are 10


“challenging” goals which are supposed to be borne in mind at the highest level.


The most eye-catching is perhaps the plans to ‘phase out’ conventionally fuelled cars from cities by 2050, but it also includes proposals like a 50% shift in middle- distance passenger and longer-distance freight journeys from road to other modes by the same date.


There are tough climate-related targets and many aimed at integrating public transport systems. These 10 high-level goals will be backed up by 40 concrete initiatives which will be developed and rolled out over the course of this decade.


Oil dependency


Siim Kallas, vice-president of the European Commission, and Commissioner for Trans- port, said: “In a world of rising oil prices, growing congestion and looming climate change, the EU’s transport system needs a radical overhaul to maintain its role of growth engine and keep pace with mount- ing global competition. In order to avoid having to limit our freedom of movement, we need to break the shackles of transport’s dependency on oil, but without sacrificing its efficiency.


“I am fully committed to putting forward key proposals during my term as Commis- sioner for Transport.”


MPs on the European Committee debated the document at a meeting on July 4.


In her opening statement, transport min- ister Theresa Villiers said: “Although we have reservations about a number of the initiatives proposed in the White Paper, the Government broadly welcome the Commission’s aim to set out a long-term vi- sion for achieving a competitive, resource- efficient and environmentally sustainable transport sector in the EU.”


UK resistance She said the main concerns are around


subsidiarity and taxation, especially on transport charges and taxes, as well as on employment conditions – adding that the UK would be “very resistant” to any EU measures that undermine the “flexibility” of the UK labour market.


Labour MP for Denton & Reddish, Andrew Gwynne, noted that the DfT’s “desire to al- low even larger HGVs on to Britain’s road network” would have a damaging effect on rail freight, and runs counter to the aims of the White Paper, while also asking if EU funding may be available to support high- speed rail schemes – and he also confirmed that “the Labour party is committed to a high-speed rail network”, despite reports that it might come out against because of cost considerations.


Villiers responded, on HGVs and rail freight: “I do not believe that that change will have a significant negative impact on rail freight, although we turned down the super-lorry proposals because we had a concern about its impact on rail freight.”


She confirmed that DfT officials had “raised directly” the potential of EU fund- ing towards high-speed rail in line with EU objectives.


Trust the market


Conservative MP for Wycombe, Steve Baker, said: “This incredible, ambitious White Paper is a planner’s dream because it contains the contradiction that we see so often between a commitment to markets as the way to produce prosperity and allocate resources, and a commitment to achieving specific outcomes.


“For example, it sets out the intention of halving the use of conventionally-fuelled cars for urban transport by 2030 to achieve carbon dioxide-free city logistics in major urban centres. We could also go on about the intentions on low-carbon sustainable fuels for aviation, shifting 30% of road freight over 300km and so on. These tech- nocratic targets – these decisions on spe- cific outcomes – are incompatible with market mechanisms when people make choices that guide entrepreneurs on how


to allocate resources…who are we to help people make the right choices?”


Trust the state


Luton North’s Labour MP Kelvin Hopkins attacked both the current and former Gov- ernments over what he said was the small amount of money spent on the rail freight network, which he said suggested that it “is not being taken seriously.”


He said: “Successful rail freight invest- ments on the continent have not come from the EU; they have come from mem- ber state Governments. There has been a little bit of money from Trans-European Networks – 5%, 2%, 3%; small amounts – but the basic money has come from member states. Enormous, vast, cavernous tunnels have been drilled through the Alps capable of taking full-scale lorries and dou- ble-stacked full-size containers on trains. A similar tunnel – I think it is 38km long – is now being built under the Brenner pass.


“Again, the tunnel is of a similar size to the other tunnels and, again, it is essentially funded by state money. They are taking it seriously. It is not the European Union as such; these are member state Govern- ments and railway operators, and they are doing a good job. Another example is the Betuweroute, which runs from Rotterdam to the Ruhr. I have visited it, and it is a su- perb bit of railway line. When I asked who paid for it, they said that it was, of course, the Government. That is what happens.”


The committee ultimately voted to “support the Government’s aim to ensure that the Eu- ropean Commission’s proposals are practical and proportionate and avoid excessive regula- tory burdens on busi- ness, while respecting the principles of sub- sidiarity”.


Siim Kallas


FOR MORE INFORMATION The White Paper and associated documents are at http://ec.europa.eu/ transport/strategies/2011_white_paper_ en.htm


rail technology magazine Jun/Jul 11 | 55


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