Safe and clean mobility is crucial for the future of Europe. At the high-level conference in Vienna on 15-16 November 2018, the EESC members took stock of the state of play of mobility in the EU and stressed once again how fundamental a strong commitment on this matter is for the future development of European transport policy.
European transport policy is at a crossroads. Either we invest in clean and renewed mobility or it will be too late for our planet. This is the main message of the high-level conference on Clean Mobility organised by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and its Section for Transport, Energy, Infrastructure and the Information Society (TEN) on 15-16 November 2018 in Vienna, in cooperation with Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB).
Continuous cooperation among all stakeholders at grass-roots, national and European level is essential, especially in the run-up to next year's European elections, highlighted the President of the TEN Section Pierre Jean Coulon:
If we all work together, civil society and representatives of the institutions, we will build a better Europe. We need a firm commitment from all actors involved to make clean mobility happen.
The event brought about a fruitful exchange of views between civil society organisations, stakeholders, experts, and senior EU and national decision-makers on the progress made in European transport policy. The debate identified current and future challenges and focused in particular on intermodality and corridors, green mobility and challenges for conurbations.
INTERMODALITY AND CORRIDORS
Intermodality is recognised as a transport approach with less impact on the environment and as a way of unburdening road transport infrastructure. In order to obtain a fully integrated intermodal network and a functioning EU Single Market, we need to develop cross-border planning in the TEN-T corridors. In this way, we will interconnect all different modes of transport and avoid bottlenecks.
For the future, we have to inextricably combine transport with digital platforms, pointed out EESC member Alberto Mazzola, who also stressed that many crucial questions concerning infrastructure and regulatory issues still need to be addressed.
In order to develop and improve the corridors, dialogue between authorities and civil society is fundamental, he said.
The EU will only meet its climate goals if we quickly move to decarbonise transport. This involves serious attempts to cut carbon use in air transport, a switch from air to rail for journeys of under 750 km, the further decarbonisation of road transport including the widespread roll-out of electric vehicle charging infrastructure and further moves from private to public transport in cities.
The Austrian Federal Railways are on the right track: not only are they Austria's largest mobility service provider, but also Austria's leading climate protection company, as Andreas Matthä, ÖBB Holding Chief executive officer, pointed out.
Our big goal as a corporation is to achieve CO2 neutrality, he declared.
This is why ÖBB set out its own 'Climate Protection Strategy 2030' with six central action areas - electrification, alternative drive systems on rail and on the road, renewable energies, energy efficiency and modal shift from road to rail.
EESC member Sir Graham Watson reiterated the positive steps taken by the European Commission with its initiatives to decarbonise the transport sector, in particular by speeding up the provision of alternative fuels infrastructure with the target of zero greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions by 2050. However, he added,
we are concerned that the national measures for decarbonisation put together by the Member States are currently falling short of their stated objectives and, because of that, the Action Plan on Alternative Fuels Infrastructure is likely to fail.
CHALLENGES FOR CONURBATIONS
Approximately 70% of the EU population lives in cities and 80% of the Union's GDP is generated in cities. Continuing urbanisation is an opportunity and a challenge at the same time. Offering a high quality of life in cities requires, on the one hand, smart developments, ecologically compatible forms of mobility, clean air and low traffic noise and, on the other, an optimally developed transport infrastructure as well as high quality jobs in the transport sector.
Solid and coherent coordination must be developed between all public and private decision-makers at all levels, underlined EESC member Thomas Kattnig.
Sustainable urban mobility plans should become a priority at all levels in the EU, he said.
We need plans that are consistent with targets for the climate, the environment and energy, health protection and time and energy savings, which are key drivers for the economy.
The EESC has been working on the three mobility packages published by the European Commission under the Europe on the Move initiative. For further information, please consult the website and the TEN publication.