By ANDREW WILLIS
Europe must invest €1.5 trillion in transport infrastructure over the next two decades and a further €1 trillion in vehicles and equipment, the European Commission is set to say.
The need to shift from road to rail transport, greater emphasis on the ‘polluter pays’ principle and an overhaul of security measures following recent terrorist attempts are also outlined in the commission’s white paper on transport, set to be published on 28 March and seen by EUobserver.
Commission senior officials reached final agreement on the 29-page policy document on Monday (21 March), although last minute changes are still possible.
“Europe needs a ‘core network’ of corridors, carrying large and consolidated volumes of freight and passengers traffic with high efficiency and low emissions,” says the paper.
“Despite EU enlargement, large divergences in terms of transport infrastructure remain between eastern and western parts of the EU,” continues the document, stressing the need for better links between EU capitals, ports, airports and key land borders.
Added to this, the commission estimates that European air transport will more than double by 2050, but the region’s ongoing debt crisis has placed a question mark over funding to support the extra infrastructure required.
To tackle this, the commission last month opened a consultation process on EU ‘project bonds’, under which the European Investment Bank could potentially buy some of the bonds private firms or state entities routinely issue to raise money to build specific projects.
EU citizens may also have to pay more for transport in the future, however. “Transport charges and taxes must be restructured in the direction of wider application of the ‘polluter-pays’ and ‘user-pays’ principle,” says the commission white paper.
If approved by member states, noise and air pollution externalities would be built into ticket costs, while market-distorting subsidies would be phased out.
An annex provides an action list for governments in this area. “Revise motor fuel taxation with clear identification of the energy and CO2 component,” and “Phase in a mandatory infrastructure charge for heavy-duty vehicles,” are among the proposals, to be implemented before 2016.
Another includes an extra charge when purchasing road vehicles, factoring in the “social costs of congestion, CO2 – if not included in fuel tax – local pollution, noise and accidents.”