The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) points out that public transport is essential to ensure access to and continuity of basic services. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed people's behaviour in terms of mobility and the EU needs a specific strategy to upgrade it and really make it environmentally and people friendly.
Public transport can play a key part in Europe's post-pandemic recovery: it can help address climate concerns and at the same time improve our quality of life, enabling people to work, enjoy a social life and access culture.
In an own-initiative opinion adopted at the EESC October plenary session and put together by Kristina Krupavičienė and Dovilė Juodkaitė, the Committee underlines that sustainable mobility can make the EU's green recovery a reality: public transport which is environmentally and user friendly could be a real driver in the recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the EESC, the EU needs strategies to upgrade mobility and improve public transport, making it more attractive and accessible to members of the public, especially those on low incomes.
The pandemic has acted as a catalyst, showing that public transport is an essential service in the public interest, especially when providing access to jobs and services for frontline workers and vulnerable groups, said Ms Krupavičienė.
What the Committee is proposing
First of all, the EESC calls for mobility to be recognised as an individual right and as a public good that has to be available to everyone. Public transport guarantees access to work, a social life and culture and the EU must prioritise the provision of sufficiently staffed, accessible, affordable, safe, quality public transport services for everyone.
At the same time, the Committee says that it is vital to adopt a participatory approach to public transport planning at regional, national and European level. For example, recovery strategies and measures must meet the needs and expectations of all those who run and use public transport, i.e. users and workers.
In addition, new business models are needed in order to make transport systems more innovative and attractive, ensuring high-quality service as well as good working conditions and social protection for employees, who must be motivated and well trained.
Sustainable mobility requires strong political commitment
Achieving sustainable mobility requires strong political commitment from all actors and at all levels. The EU institutions must show strong political leadership and provide guidance, setting clear goals and objectives and making the necessary funds available.
We call on the European Commission to set measurable and ambitious targets to promote a switch from private car use to collective transport and active mobility, and encourage the European Union and the Member States to contribute to the shift towards greener modes of transport by making them more generally attractive, said Ms Juodkaitė.
Another important step to promote the shift to public and sustainable transport is raising awareness about the environmental impact of transport and personal mobility choices. For this reason, the EESC calls on the European Commission to dedicate 2024 to public transport, and its users and workers.