The European core network corridors have now been mapped, the Connecting Europe Facility has already allocated most of its resources earmarked for them and European coordinators are implementing the measures and initiatives set out in the work plans. These include the use of ITS, efficient management and the promotion of forward-looking clean transport methods. Nevertheless, many key infrastructure and regulatory issues still need to be addressed.

Background

Public participation is crucial for policy efficacy and legitimacy. That's why the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) decided to join forces with the European Commission (EC) to start a participative dialogue on the Trans-European Transport Network. The first meeting took place in Malmö in May 2015 and concerned the Scandinavian-Mediterranean Corridor, the longest of nine European core network corridors.

As a follow-up to the Malmö event, the European Economic and Social Committee together with the Region of Lombardy and a group of Italian stakeholders – in close cooperation with the European Commission - ScanMed Corridor Coordinator Mr Pat Cox – organized a conference on "Shaping the future of the European core network corridors - Improved dialogue for smart and sustainable transport".  The conference was another step in the process of shaping Europe's core network corridors and aimed to repeatedly engage with civil society, discussing and supporting the implementation of the corridors. It took place on 24 and 25 October 2016 in Milan, one of the corridors´ crossing points.  This enabled the EESC's concept of participatory dialogue to be extended to other core corridors as well.

The conference brought together almost 200 participants, including a delegation of 10 EESC members, who listened to addresses and presentations by more than 40 speakers. The event began with keynote speeches by high-level policy makers and civil society representatives who took part in plenary sessions. This was followed by three parallel workshops which gave the participants an opportunity to take part in in-depth discussions on:

  • Better dialogue for better solutions, with a focus on specific projects in regions where participatory dialogue could have clear added value and has the potential to improve implementation.
  • Financing solutions, presenting the possibilities offered by the CEF, EFSI and structural/regional funds, and PPP solutions.
  • Efficient smarter and greener transport solutions and corridors.

Welcome and keynote speeches

The conference began with welcome speeches delivered by Alberto Mazzola, Member of the EESC, and Alessandro Sorte, Regional Minister for Infrastructure and Mobility of the Lombardy Regional Government.

These were followed by inspiring keynote speeches from Pat Cox (European Coordinator for the TEN-T Scandinavian-Mediterranean Corridor), Herbert Dorfmann (Member of the European Parliament), Stefan Pan (Confindustria), Susanna Camusso (CGIL), Renato Mazzoncini, CEO of Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane (Italian State Railways) and Pierre Jean Coulon, president of the TEN Section, EESC.

The underlying ideas were as follows:

  • There is a great need for a bottom up approach in order to get support for TEN-T projects. In this context, communication and listening policy have a role to play in achieving consistency and consensus.
  • During this type of participatory dialogue, it is important to explain to people that corridors are an opportunity.  These projects bring European added value and, in addition, investments made in infrastructure projects have a strong multiplying effect (i.e. creating more jobs, encouraging economic activity).
  • Despite all the efforts made, the transport sector produces more greenhouse gas emissions than in 1990, and a transformative change is therefore very much needed in order to meet the high demand for sustainable mobility.

Major EU projects

The speakers on the second plenary panel were: Pierluigi Coppola (Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport), Carlo Secchi (European Coordinator for the TEN-T Atlantic Corridor), Thomas Bühler (Sud Alptransit Gotthard), Britt Andresen (Oresundsinstituttet), Maurizio Gentile (CEO of RFI and Special Commissioner for the government for the Naples–Bari line), Paolo Foietta (Special Commissioner for the government for the Turin–Lyon line), Ezio Facchin (Special Commissioner for the Brenner Tunnel access routes) and  Iolanda Romano (Special Commissioner for the government for the Giovi Third Tunnel).

By presenting major EU projects, the speakers shared best practices and experience that they had gained from the implementation process. They emphasized that it was important to learn lessons from the past, one of them being the need for communication and dialogue. Moreover, the economic and social role of infrastructure was stressed together with the need for public engagement. With regard to finances, more focus should be given to instruments other than Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) and Juncker plan. Involving women to a greater extent in transport projects would be desirable. 

Short summary of the parallel workshops:

1. Better dialogue for better solutions

Parallel workshop 1 was chaired by EESC Member Raymond Hencks who welcomed numerous speakers. Speakers during the first part of the workshop included: Ezio Facchin (Special Commissioner for the Brenner Tunnel access routes), Costanzo Jannotti Pecci (Confindustria Campania), Raffaele Zurlo (BBT), Walter Huber (H2 South Tyrol), Kasper Bekker (Femern A/S) and Willy Smeulders (European Passengers' Federation). Speakers during the second part of the workshop were: Paolo Foietta (Special Commissioner for the government for the Turin–Lyon line), Mario Virano (TELT), Sandro Plano (Mayor of Susa), François Lépine (Comité pour la Transalpine Lyon-Turin), Oliviero Baccelli (Bocconi University), Ida Cappelletti (Transpadana) and Alberto Milotti (ZAILOG - Interporto Quadrante Europa Verona).

The large number of speakers clearly demonstrates the attractiveness and importance of participatory dialogue. The presentations – which outlined specific transport projects and experience gained from the implementation process, including regarding communication with the public – further underlined the importance of civil society involvement in transport planning. The conclusions from the session were:

  • Communication is absolutely crucial because it increases acceptance and helps to ensure the smooth running of the project.
  • Sharing information is not sufficient. Efficient communication requires inter alia an ability to listen and to interact, it is about reciprocal dialogue.
  • Citizens should be regarded as useful and serious partners in such a dialogue. If it begins with the real needs of the people, dialogue becomes spontaneous.

2. Financing solutions

During the second parallel workshop chaired by the EESC Member Alberto Mazzola, the following speakers presented their views: Wim Loyaerts (European Investment Bank), Paolo Emilio Signorini (Liguria Region), Lanfranco Senn (Bocconi University), Marc Ribó (Abertis Infraestructuras), Kaj V. Holm (Øresundsbron) and Antonio Cancian (Rete Autostrade Mediterranee).  

The main conclusions from the session were that solid sources of funding are essential for ensuring that the TEN-T projects are implemented effectively and efficiently. Public grants play a crucial role in financing, particularly with regard to big infrastructure projects. However, in the current context of general budgetary constraints, more attention should be given to alternative financing mechanisms such as project bonds and public and private partnerships. A variety of financial instruments would make infrastructure more attractive and would allow a better diversification of risk.

The Orensumd Connection’s experience was shared at this parallel session as an example of a project paid for entirely by the users. The road charging applied by Abertis as a solution to fund investment is a similar example.

3. Efficient, smarter and greener transport solutions and corridors

This parallel workshop was chaired by EESC Member Stefan Back. The following speakers took the floor: Lina Wells (Swedish Transport Administration), Paolo Costa (Venice Port Authority), Nicolas Bour (Voies Navigables de France), Laura Ghio (Genoa Port), Claudio Tarlazzi (Uiltrasporti), Pietro Vittorio Barbieri (Member of the EESC), Guillaume Moreno (Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe), Julianna Orbán Máté (Via Carpatia EGTC) and Tiina Tuurnala (Finnish Transport Agency).

The workshop drew the following main conclusions:

  • It is important to continue to rolling out the “greening” aspect of core network corridors in projects.
  • Ports play a key role within the TEN-T projects as hubs and for creating sustainable sea-land connections. Sea links via Mediterranean ports could decrease the negative impact on climate.
  • Core network corridors and their upland can also be important for projects on automation and co-modal intelligent transport systems.

Concluding speeches/comments

In his concluding speech, president of the EESC´s TEN Section, Pierre Jean Coulon, highlighted the need to generate renewed interest in the work currently being carried out by Europe and called for mutual respect and communication. Every EU citizen is also a local, regional and national citizen and has their own respective desires, wishes and obligations. At the same time, the transport system has to reflect the different needs that arise as a result of citizens' professional and private lives and this can also bring many contradictions. Another area to be taken into account is the environment. Mr Coulon emphasised the European Economic and Social Committee's readiness to work on these issues.

The European Coordinator for the Scandinavian-Mediterranean Corridor, Pat Cox, expressed his appreciation for the organisation of this follow-up conference, which had brought participatory dialogue to the southern part of the ScanMed corridor. During the Better dialogue for better solutions workshop, he had encountered a lot of common sense and examples of best practices to take away. Stressing that "doing simple things well matters", Mr Cox believed that there were very good take-away messages for people who need to build dialogue from the bottom up. Furthermore, he pointed out that the Connecting Europe Facility is only one of the EU´s sources of financing and he encouraged project leaders to also start looking at other financial instruments, including other funds available and opportunities offered by the European Investment Bank.

Mr Cox considered decarbonisation to be a very real challenge. In the EU, transport is more polluting than in 1990, while the energy sector is less polluting.  This shows that there is a lot to be done in the transport sector. Different issues must be considered in the future, e.g. transport as a service, intelligent transport systems etc.

Last of all, EESC member and chief conference organizer, Alberto Mazzola, took the floor. He emphasised the great potential of participatory dialogue and the need for citizens' involvement.

Moreover, he discussed economic and environmental challenges and reminded those present that focusing on railway and maritime transport would be an important step in the future. Mr Mazzola reassured the participants that the European Economic and Social Committee would make good use of the outcomes and experience shared at the conference in its future opinions.

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