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Introducing the advisory group on sustainable mobility and intermodality

Finding the right balance for the membership of the External Advisory Group for the Growth programme's Key Action on 'Sustainable mobility and intermodality' proved difficult. 'There are so many variables to take into account,' said Jean-Arnold Vinois of the European Commissio...
Finding the right balance for the membership of the External Advisory Group for the Growth programme's Key Action on 'Sustainable mobility and intermodality' proved difficult. 'There are so many variables to take into account,' said Jean-Arnold Vinois of the European Commission's Transport Directorate-General who is responsible for the group. 'We had to have representatives from all modes of transport, from operators, users group, manufacturing industry, policy makers as well as from research organisations. And we wanted a fair number of women.'

However it appears that the members of the EAG were well chosen. Under the chairmanship of David Bayliss, formerly director of planning with London Underground, the group dynamics function well and everybody appears to get along. Drawn from all over Europe there are representatives from the Finnish national road administration, the Norwegian ship-owners association, Enterprise Ireland and Daimler-Chrysler among others. Of the 17 members, only three are women, but everybody involved hopes this figure will improve as the advisory groups carve out a role for themselves.

'The group had to find its own way through the work programme,' said Mr Vinois. 'I've tried to help them where I can, but they are the experts and as long as they are aware of the limits of their remit, they are free to contribute what they see fit for improving the work programme.'

Appointed in November 1998, the members were selected to provide the Commission with independent advice on research on 'Sustainable mobility and intermodality', a Key Action under the Competitive and Sustainable Growth programme of the Fifth Framework Programme. Their task is to advise on content and direction, including the drafting of the work programmes, establishing testable objectives for attaining the objectives, and advising on reorientation of the programme's direction if necessary.

The group discussed their role, and a summary was given in their second opinion delivered on 15 October. The EAG agreed with the Commission that the purpose of providing strategic advice and overall guidance to the Commission was to 'ensure the tasks proposed by the Commission were relevant to the objectives of the work programme and reflected the challenges and goals of the key action.' Furthermore the EAG is to 'advise on the priority given to each task', and 'consider the scope of the task.'

'The Commission is responsible for spending a lot of money and we also have a responsibility to make sure this is spent productively,' said Mr Bayliss.

'With our collective expertise we are helping the Commission to do its job a little better. I bring a mature user's perspective to the development of the programme. I have acquired a good deal of experience and understanding of the relationship between policy and research throughout my career.'

EAG member Ivar Schacke of the Danish Ministry of Transport added: 'New things come up, better ways of doing things, better use of materials. I still believe that sitting around a table discussing those things with people who listen makes a real difference.'

To date the advisory group has met six times and produced two opinions (available on the Internet). The group expressed general approval of the work programme, and considered that the underlying rationale of the Key Action - a systems approach to transport - was clearly expressed. The first opinion says: 'The multidisciplinary approach, including all modes of transport and focussing on targeted problems, is innovative for a research programme in the field of transport.'

The group warned that this shift in emphasis will require communication efforts and real guidelines, including a clear definition of 'sustainable mobility'.

The first opinion stated further that 'the Key Action is sufficiently ambitious to enable the building of a vision for the long-term future of transport', something EAG members are keen to contribute towards. This will require a 'step by step approach', but given that concrete steps cannot be formulated in the work programme, the group says care must be taken with the formulation of specific research and development tasks in each call for proposals. One way of achieving this is by grouping single projects in strategic clusters, both modal and mode-independent.

The first opinion noted that the focus of this Key Action is on solving mobility problems through the use of existing or emerging technologies. The development of breakthrough technologies on the other hand is for other Key Actions in the Growth programme, the Information Society programme and the Energy and Environment programme. Therefore the group appointed some members to follow closely the developments of these programmes and report on their findings. Close monitoring of technological developments and economic activities and their relationship with transport is therefore required, says the group.

Attention to the interests of stakeholders (operators, users of transport services and so on) is crucial, and the EAG members are well placed to put forward these points of view.

Mr Bayliss has been generally pleased with the response from the Commission, and he believes the group has made a significant contribution to the formulation of the latest call for proposals. He said: 'The proposal that the Commission is putting through reflects the views we put forward at our last meeting.' The second opinion was delivered on 15 October.

This opinion focused on the revision of the work programme related to the Key Action 'Sustainable mobility and intermodality', and on tasks to be included in the second call for proposals to be published in December 1999 as well as the third call scheduled for June 2000.

The second opinion reflects a number of differences of opinion on specific points within the EAG, however there was 'greater consensus on the shape of the proposed tasks.'

The group felt that the Commission's overall approach to tasks was overly prescriptive, and suggested a more open-ended approach that would leave scope for proposers to express their creativity. However they recognised that tasks must be sufficiently specific in order to deliver results in addressing a given problem. The adequacy of the Commission's evaluation criteria was generally accepted.

Furthermore the second opinion expresses the belief that the objectives of 'sustainable mobility' and 'intermodality' as established in the work programme are not always met, and it was suggested that modal and intermodal tasks be combined to ensure proper solutions to the transport system problems.

The importance of building on previous research was emphasised by members, and the EAG have now asked the Commission for information on the links to previous programmes.

The timetable for the calls was endorsed as follows: one will be published in December 1999, and a second in June 2000. The remaining budget will then be concentrated in a single call in 2001.

Source: European Commission, Research and Transport Directorates-General

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