The European Commission’s controversial Transport 2050 roadmap

The European Commission’s controversial Transport 2050 roadmap

To achieve this will require a transformation in Europe’s current transport system. By 2050, key goals will include: No more conventionally-fuelled cars in cities; 40% use of sustainable low carbon fuels in aviation; at least 40% cut in shipping emissions; 50% shift of medium distance intercity passenger and freight journeys from road to rail and waterborne transport – all of which will contribute to a 60% cut in transport emissions by the middle of the century.

Already proving to be controversial in some quarters, the Transport 2050 roadmap to a Single European Transport Area sets out to remove major barriers and bottlenecks in many key areas across the fields of: transport infrastructure and investment, innovation and the internal market. The aim is to create a Single European Transport Area with more competition and a fully integrated transport network which links the different modes and allows for a profound shift in transport patterns for passengers and freight. To this purpose, the roadmap puts forward 40 concrete initiatives for the next decade.

It sets different goals for different types of journey – within cities, between cities, and long distance.

For intercity travel:

• 50% of all medium-distance passenger and freight transport should shift off the roads and onto rail and waterborne transport.

• By 2050, the majority of medium-distance passenger transport, about 300km and beyond, should go by rail.

• By 2030, 30% of road freight over 300 km should shift to other modes such as rail or waterborne transport, and more than 50% by 2050.

• Deliver a fully functional and EU-wide core network of transport corridors, ensuring facilities for efficient transfer between transport modes (TEN-T core network) by 2030, with a high-quality high-capacity network by 2050 and a corresponding set of information services.

• By 2050, connect all core network airports to the rail network, preferably high-speed; ensure that all core seaports are sufficiently connected to the rail freight and, where possible, inland waterway system.

• By 2020, establish the framework for a European multimodal transport information, management and payment system, both for passengers and freight.

• Move towards full application of “user pays” and “polluter pays” principles and private sector engagement to eliminate distortions, generate revenues and ensure financing for future transport investments.

For long-distance travel and intercontinental freight, air travel and ships will continue to dominate. New engines, fuels and traffic management systems will increase efficiency and reduce emissions.

• Low-carbon fuels in aviation to reach 40% by 2050; also, by 2050, reduce EU CO2 emissions from maritime bunker fuels by 40%.

• A complete modernisation of Europe’s air traffic control system by 2020, delivering the Single European Sky: shorter and safer air journeys and more capacity. Completion of the European Common Aviation Area of 58 countries and 1 billion inhabitants by 2020.

• Deployment of intelligent land and waterborne transport management systems

• Work with international partners and in international organisations such as ICAO and IMO to promote European competitiveness and climate goals at a global level.

For urban transport, a big shift to cleaner cars and cleaner fuels with a 50% shift away from conventionally fuelled cars by 2030 and phasing them out in cities by 2050.

Caveats and controversy

While welcoming the overriding ambitions revealed in the long-awaited Roadmap, the UK Freight Transport Association (FTA), has identified some caveats.

As well as stating that 300km options for road decarbonisation are limited, the report also recommends that cabotage restrictions should be eliminated. Chris Yarsley, FTA’s EU Affairs Manager, said, “We question the reasoning behind picking 300km as the magic number above which road freight is no longer viable. Equally, while lifting cabotage may be a fine idea in a harmonised Europe, UK operators pay by far the highest fuel duty in Europe and doing so would present a massive competitive disadvantage to UK registered operators.”

Surprisingly, within hours of the announcement, the European Commission’s UK head of media Antonia Mochan issued a correction, stating that the EC is not considering an EU level ban on cars in city centres by 2050. Cities are of course best placed to decide their own transport mix.

The statement said that the Transport White Paper acknowledges that many European cities are struggling with the challenges of congestion, noise pollution, traffic jams and so on. Something needs to be done and phasing out conventional combustion engines is a realistic objective. The role of the European level is to help the shift to alternative forms of transport take place, and make them more attractive to users.

However, “No one city or even country can act alone to bring on stream the technologies needed to tackle the challenges of transport in Europe’s cities. That is where action at European level can help. But a blanket ban on conventional cars is not on the table,” said Mochan.