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Interview with Mr. Neil Kinnock, Commissioner responsible for transport

In a recent interview with CORDIS RTD News, Commissioner Niel Kinnock outlined the Commission's priorities in the area of transport policy and research. - What are the priorities in the Commission's proposed guidelines for the development of the trans-European transport netwo...

In a recent interview with CORDIS RTD News, Commissioner Niel Kinnock outlined the Commission's priorities in the area of transport policy and research. - What are the priorities in the Commission's proposed guidelines for the development of the trans-European transport network? Transport networks are, of course, central to our efforts to bring the EU closer to its citizens by concentrating on its practical benefits. The Maastricht Treaty provided a basis for the creation of a single Europe-wide transport network - one of the three Trans-European Networks (TENs) foreseen in the Treaty, the other two being telecommunications and energy. The aim of the trans-European transport network is to improve the efficiency and competitiveness of the European economy as a whole and to improve cohesion between the different parts of the Union by reducing travel time and improving the conditions, particularly with regard to efficiency and safety, in which people and goods can move around Europe. To achieve these aims the Treaty calls for the promotion of: - Interconnection of national networks; - Interoperability, in the sense that the networks should be compatible for the different users and equipment is designed to common standards; - Access to the networks, so that the necessary links are made possible between trans-European, national, regional and even local systems; - The linking of islands, landlocked and peripheral areas with the more central regions of the Union. Many of the projects which effect the network are intended to improve capacity and reduce congestion, in particular on road and in the air. Others are more specifically aimed at encouraging a transfer from road to rail in order to assist environmental objectives. In this context, the Community is called upon to establish guidelines setting out objectives, priorities and the broad lines of measures to be carried out and identifying projects of common interest in this area. Guidelines for the development of the trans-European transport network were proposed by the Commission last year and are now under discussion in Council and Parliament. These envisage the progressive development of a single transport network throughout the Community by the year 2010: the trans-European transport network. This network will cover road, rail, inland waterways, combined transport, port and airport infrastructures and appropriate traffic management and control systems. It should be capable of connection with the networks of third countries in central and eastern Europe and the Mediterranean. The Community is actively supporting the organization and implementation of specific priority projects, in association with the Member States concerned. We are also, of course, providing funds for particular projects, notably in the early stages. The European summits in Corfu and Essen last year, and more recently the Cannes summit, confirmed the priority given to 14 huge infrastructure projects aimed primarily at implementing the European highspeed railway network and ensuring links, over the sea, to Sweden (the Oeresund link), across the Alps (Lyon-Turin and the Brenner tunnel) and rail links across the UK. The latter project will also improve connections between Ireland and the Benelux countries. There are also several projects specifically designed to improve social and economic cohesion. The investment requirements in this area are, obviously, huge - the 14 projects alone require an investment of approximately ECU 90 billion over the next 15 years. The full establishment of the trans-European transport network by the year 2010 would require an investment of more than ECU 400 billion. This huge investment exceeds the budgetary capacity of the Member States and new financing mechanisms must, therefore, be found. The emphasis placed, by the EU Heads of State, on the need to establish joint private/public funding arrangements is to be warmly welcomed. Such partnerships will not only mobilise investment resources, they also bring to bear the techniques of enterprise. The conclusions of the Essen Council included the issue of Community funding to facilitate the trans-European network projects. I hope that the Council Finance Ministers will respond positively to the European Council's call to find means of "topping up" the money available for supporting the development of transport network projects. If they can do that, there is no doubt that the relatively modest expenditure will provide a rich return for the Community. - What contribution will the specific programme for transport, adopted under the Fourth Framework Programme, make to the establishment of the trans-European transport network in particular, and to the Commission's transport policy priorities in general? The agenda for the specific programme for transport is set by the Common Transport Policy, which calls for the establishment of transport systems capable of providing sustainable mobility so that goods and people may travel, throughout the Community, "efficiently, safely, under the best possible social conditions and fully respecting the objectives of the Community's environment policy." The emphasis is on issues which by their nature require a Community-level approach. A distinction is made between common problems (such as the development of urban public transport) and shared problems (such as the planning methodologies needed for the trans-European network). The programme intends to remove barriers to the implementation and deployment of new technologies, improve the efficiency of the individual transport modes and speed up their strategic integration into the European transport network. The research carried out under this programme will provide information to support decision-making and quantify the foreseeable impact of various possible options. It will, thereby, promote Community transport initiatives at both national and European levels, whilst taking account of the principle of subsidiarity. One thing is certainly clear, the contribution of research should not be underestimated. Well-planned and well-executed transport research will be an essential element in the development of new transport policies and a key support for solutions to both today's and tomorrow's problems. Within this context, it is also important to note that the other specific programmes supporting transport-related research - the Telematics Applications Programme, the Non-Nuclear Energy Programme and the Industrial and Materials Technology Programme - will also be ensuring that developments are compatible with transport policy requirements and both the existing and intended future transport systems. As far as the contribution of these specific programmes to the establishment of the trans-European transport network is concerned, the research programme will make a particularly important contribution. Notably, the strategic research part of the programme will provide a socio-economic and integrated approach to the understanding, general efficiency, functioning and impact of pan-European transport systems and to the integration of all modes of transport in the trans-European network. There is, for example, within the Transport RTD Programme, a research sub-section entitled "Policy Assessment". Under this section, we will undertake further assessment of the overall policy-related issues of the trans-European transport network. This will include assessment of the spatial, economic and environmental impact of the transport TEN to ensure that consistent assessment techniques are used across all the modes. Other areas of the programme will also serve the Trans-European Networks. The report prepared by the group of personal representatives of the Heads of State or Government on the Trans-European Network (the "Christophersen Group") and presented to the Essen Council in 1994, clearly outlined the importance of traffic management services in the realization of the goals of the Common Transport Policy. It was this potential contribution which encouraged the Commission, in its proposal for the development of a trans-European transport network, to incorporate traffic and transport management as an integral part of the approach. The research and development which is taking place within the context of the Transport RTD Programme will lead to the development of more advanced and harmonized traffic management services. If you take rail transport as an example, the important contribution that research in this area can make becomes quite evident. Rail traffic is currently characterized by delays and hindrances at national borders. One of the main reasons for this is the different and often incompatible national signalling and management systems. There are, for example, currently thirteen different cab signalling systems in Europe. Research carried out under the Transport RTD Programme aims to develop a new common rail traffic management system for Europe - the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS). This will ensure, over time, that the signalling and management systems throughout Europe are compatible and that the European railway systems become fully interoperable. As a consequence, delays due to incompatible systems will be eliminated. The reduction in such delays and associated costs will help improve the attractiveness of rail transport, particularly international transport, and contribute to increasing the competitiveness of rail transport in an open transport market. This same argument could equally be used for the other traffic management services which the programme will be helping to develop. What this demonstrates, above all, is that the Transport RTD Programme will be producing concrete results which should quickly have an impact on the European transport system. There are many examples I could quote, but the few cited below give a good indication of the impact which this research will have in other areas: - Traffic information: Good traffic information is the key to allowing people to make informed travel decisions, thus helping them to avoid the traffic jams and delays which are all too often a hindrance in our daily life. Transport research currently being carried out will assist the further development and implementation of travel information systems which can be used both prior to and even during the trip. Pre-trip information, accessed through computers or other media, will allow the traveller to make an informed choice about the best possible way to get from A to B at a certain time and date. The decision could also, depending upon the wishes of the traveller, be made according to other factors such as price, time or even impact on the environment. Once the journey has begun, continually updated travel information will allow the traveller to change his route or even means of transport. One example of such a development, whose implementation this research and development work will facilitate, is the Radio Data System/Traffic Message Channel (RDS/TMC). RDS/TMC is a modern medium for disseminating traffic information, using a special type of car radio, which converts digital signals into the user's language; - The air traffic management system of the future: The current air traffic control systems in Europe are virtually at full capacity and barely able to keep pace with demand. The result of this is that delays are commonplace and a relatively minor problem in the system has major repercussions throughout the whole European area for several hours. Despite initiatives taken by Member States to improve capacity, this situation is likely to get worse. The European Community, through the Transport RTD Programme, is aiming to develop a single European air traffic management system by the next decade. This will be able to provide the necessary capacity well into the next century and will enable the air traveller to arrive safely, and at the scheduled time, at his destination; - Informed political decisions: Policy decision-making on European transport has often suffered from insufficient knowledge about the key factors affecting transport. Strategic transport research will provide answers to key questions such as: how various policies (for example pricing) will influence mobility and modal split; and the impact that the trans-European transport network will have on Europe, both in terms of its impact on the transport system and on the environment, and in terms of its implications for the general quality of life of the European citizen. The scenarios to be developed will take into consideration: . Future technological prospects of the transport system; . Changes in travel and distribution patterns due to changes in society and in industry; . The effect that any future expansion of the European Union will have on the European transport network; In addition, the creation of a European database and information system will allow, for the first time, a comprehensive strategic overview of the European transport system as a whole. All of these tools have one single aim - the development of an improved understanding of the European transport system which will allow decisions affecting transport to be made in an informed manner and with full awareness of their impact; - Improved public transport: The research programme will also offer support to the recent "Citizen's Network" initiative of the European Commission. The objective of this initiative is to improve collective passenger transport by targeting research at the complete passenger transport system - from the development of traveller friendly ticketing technologies (allowing tickets to be ordered, for example, from the comfort of one's home) to research allowing the speed and/or the reliability of collective transport to be improved. One example of the latter could be the implementation of systems allowing buses priority at all traffic lights or providing signs at bus stops informing passengers of when the next bus will arrive. This initiative should result in the identification and assessment of measures to improve the attraction of public transport, allowing it to become a high-quality, flexible system directly orientated to the user's needs. This should make it possible for public transport to partially replace some of the private car traffic; - Improved safety for maritime transport: Aircraft have for a long time been equipped with a black box which, in the case of an accident, allows investigators to quickly analyse the causes of the accident and take measures to prevent a similar occurrence in other aircraft. The research programme intends, on the basis of this technology, to develop a similar tool for the maritime sector with a view to enhancing the safety of maritime traffic. This will not only provide the set of basic technical specifications, which obviously differ considerably from the black boxes traditionally used in aircraft, but will also analyse the necessary legal and institutional framework required for successful implementation. Any solution adopted must be both cost-effective and conform to international regulations. The results of the research will go a long way to helping avoid similar catastrophes to those recently witnessed and will allow the safety of the maritime sector to be further improved; - Cheaper, quicker and more effective intermodal transport: The transfer costs involved in moving freight from one mode of transport to another represent the principal barrier to expansion of combined transport. The aim of the transport research programme is to enable the transfer costs to be reduced and the whole transfer process to be speeded up. This will be achieved through the use of new technologies including information technology services. In conjunction, new logistic and planning concepts will be developed allowing transportation operations between transport modes and between transport terminals to be improved. The results will play an important role in improving interoperability and interconnectivity of the European transport system. A spin-off of this will be the promotion of a more environmentally-friendly combination of different transport modes. - How was the transport industry involved in the development of the Transport RTD Programme and is there provision for the involvement of transport industry representatives? What, for example, has been the response of industry representatives to the first call for proposals? The role of industry is certainly important in all Community research programmes, but it would be a mistake to see industry as the only important partner. This is particularly the case following the adoption of the Treaty of Maastricht which states very clearly, in article 130f, that Community support for research work should serve not only the promotion of the competitiveness of European industry but also the requirements of the policies of the Union. It was very much in this perspective that the Transport RTD Programme was conceived. Naturally, the programme is oriented towards the needs of industry and, in particular, the professional transport services industry (including transport operators, transporters etc.), but it also takes on board the needs of all transport users. As far as the involvement of interested parties (industry, service providers, administrations, research organizations etc.) in the formulation of the programme is concerned, interest groups and relevant organizations were naturally consulted. A series of workshops were held and the input of organizations such as AECMA (European Aerospace Manufacturing Association), CER (Community of European Railways) and UITP (International Union of Public Transport) was a vital component in the preparation of the programme. The most obvious involvement of transport industry representatives in the progress of the programme will, however, be through their active participation in projects. Under the first call for proposals for the Transport RTD Programme, we received around 340 proposals involving a total of 2,431 participants - a clear sign that there is a great deal of interest in the Transport RTD Programme. Indeed, over four times the actual amount of funds available was requested. Around 53% of the funds being awarded to projects as a result of the first call will go to industry. This is certainly a clear indication of the interest in, and positive response to, the programme from industry. In addition, by insisting on the importance of dissemination and exploitation of the research results, we will also ensure that all interested parties are kept informed of the results and, indeed, that any actual results are put to good use and made available to interested parties. This is clearly facilitated by the kind of service offered by CORDIS. - A number of task forces have recently been created in the area of transport. How will these operate, what projects will they be involved in and will they be able to fund projects ? What contribution will the task forces make to the progress of European research ? What will their relationship be with the Fourth Framework Programme, in particular the transport programme ? What will be the involvement of the private sector and how will the progress be achieved? There will in fact be four task forces directly concerned with transport issues. These are: - The New Generation Aircraft task force; - The Car of the Future task force; - The Train and Railway Systems of the Future task force; - The Transport Intermodality task force. I will be personally presiding the last two of these. In addition, we are in the process of setting up a fifth task force to look at maritime transport issues. The aim of these task forces is to: - Identify RTD projects currently being promoted or developed by industry at both Community and national level (including those in the relevant specific programmes of the Community's Fourth Framework Programme); - Cluster projects to improve the synergy between them; - Identify detailed objectives which can be achieved on the basis of existing programmes; - Consider the possibility of complementary programmes under Articles 130h - 130n of the Treaty; and identify additional measures which need to be taken. Representatives from industry bodies and other concerned organizations (customers, operators, equipment manufacturers and trade unions) will be associated with each task force and it is through this active involvement that both the private sector and other interested parties will be able to ensure that European Union research priorities are reflecting their true needs and requirements. The task forces will not, themselves, manage or fund projects, but they will be able to influence the content of the remaining calls for proposals under the Fourth Framework Programme, and the structure and the content of the Fifth Framework Programme. The main contribution of these task forces to the progress of European research will, therefore, be to provide a tighter focus for RTD in the relevant sectors, with improved links between transport policy and the requirements of users, operators and industry. The specific objectives of the two task forces for which I am president are summarized below: - Objectives of the task force "Trains and railway systems of the future"": Starting from the perspective that there is a valid contribution to be made at the European level, wide consultation with users and industry will ensure that the following issues are addressed: . Identification of technological development and industrial innovation priorities in the light of customer needs and of the Community's industrial, energy, environmental and social policies; . Creation of conditions, in particular financial, so that Community RTD can act as a catalyst bringing these needs closer to the objectives of Community policy; . Improvement in cooperation between the main European industries in the field of railway research (as is being done in other transport sectors); . Promotion of a European approach to research, with a global dimension, which takes into account the objectives of the common transport policy; . The achievement, in view of the continuing increase in the design costs of high technology projects, of a "critical mass", both in terms of design and in financial terms, in order to assure the development of future generations of trains at a European level; . Creation of conditions for the development of a genuine European railway sub-system industry including small- and medium-sized enterprises. In order that rail transport can play a significant role in Europe, in effective competition with other modes, in the short to medium term, attention has to be focused on those areas of the market in which high added value can be achieved relatively quickly. Particular areas, not in priority order, which have been identified for a concentration of effort by the Task Force are: . Business and other journeys which require a return on the same day , using fast and comfortable transport which is likely to compete with medium-distance air travel (objective: 1000 km in 3 hours); . Leisure trips for which railways should be able to compete with the flexibility, comfort and speed offered by the private car and air transport; . Public and suburban transport which requires an increase in the number of trains per hour, improved punctuality and more attention to passenger security in stations and on trains; . Freight transport: the strategic objective is to adapt railway services to the needs of modern logistics (e.g. high-speed movements, hub and spoke operations, rapid loading/unloading). - Objectives of the task force on ""Transport intermodality"": The objective of this task force is to contribute to the development of technologies, systems, innovative concepts and strategies which improve the intermodal transport operations in the field of passenger and freight transport. It will be necessary, in this context, to focus not only on points at which freight or passengers change transport mode (ports, airports, inland terminals, stations etc.), but also on other aspects of the intermodal system. The initial focus will be on assessing and demonstrating these different aspects in an integrated and comprehensive way on the basis of past, current or future RTD activities. Specific issues to be addressed, and which will need common upstream development to further intermodality, are: . Concepts of more efficient, economic, technological and organisational transfer; . "Smart" transfer technologies; . Flexible and modular transfer point design and technologies; . New logistic transportation concepts through trans-European networks, notably with the help of advanced transport telematics; - Alignment of intermodal transport units and the transport modes carrying them; - Traveller information; - Ease of travel between established connections at transfer points (distances, ticketing, guidance); - Locational and optimal number of transfer points and their facilities; - Coordination of services; - Availability, reliability, and quality of service; - Travel substitution.

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