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Trans-European transport networks and the environment

In a recent speech to the European Parliament's Transport and Environment Committee, Mr. Neil Kinnock, the European Commissioner responsible for transport policy, said that the trans-European transport networks (TENs) are certainly not inherently damaging to the environment. ...

In a recent speech to the European Parliament's Transport and Environment Committee, Mr. Neil Kinnock, the European Commissioner responsible for transport policy, said that the trans-European transport networks (TENs) are certainly not inherently damaging to the environment. In his speech, the Commissioner addressed certain misconceptions about the networks and the 14 priority projects decided by the European Council at Essen. In particular, he explained the following: - The TEN road network in the 15 Member States represents approximately 65,000 km of which 45,000 exist. The planned new road construction is mostly in the four cohesion States. Cohesion means helping the peripheral and poorer parts of the EU to link up with each other and with the centre of the Community; - The commitments to rail transport far exceed those of road construction. Approximately 80% of the ECU 91 billion to be spent on the first 14 major projects will be allocated to rail projects and a further 9% to promoting road/rail links. Only 10% will go solely to road construction. At a time when 80% of passenger transport in Europe goes by road and less than 10% by rail, the balance of TEN investments represents a strong effort to shift travel from road to rail; - Article 130 of the Maastricht Treaty stipulates that every TEN project must respect the environment and environmental impact assessments have to be carried out, by Member States, wherever this is required by the law of a Member State or is otherwise appropriate; - Environmentally responsible TEN projects are part of a wider framework of measures that the Commission is now investigating to improve the environmental performance of the EU's transport system. They include: . A set of low-cost measures to achieve better air quality standards; . A study on how to ensure that the pricing of infrastructure costs in the road and rail sectors properly reflect the costs of running such systems; . A new emphasis on the environmental advantages of short-sea shipping, which makes the best use of the Union's extensive coastline, and of canals and inland waterways; . The modernization of air traffic management. Reducing delays and stacking by means of improved air traffic control will reduce pollution and fuel consumption.