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Alpine transport protocol signed

The transport protocol of the Alpine Convention has entered into force in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein and Slovenia, having been ratified by the EU over the summer. The Alpine Convention is an international treaty signed by the eight Alpine countries and the EU, aimed at protecting the Alps. Its transport protocol was agreed in 2000, and has a clause that states: ‘The contracting parties shall refrain from constructing any new large-capacity roads for transalpine transport.’ However, Italy held out against ratification until it was persuaded to sign a year ago, and Switzerland has refused to sign the transport protocol, leaving its legal standing in some doubt.

Plus ça change – transport spending ready for its close-up?

While all eyes in Brussels are usually focused on three leading actors – the Commission, Parliament and Council – there are several other lesser-known EU institutions playing supporting roles. In the wings we have the EU Court of Auditors, which has repeatedly published scathing – and revealing – reviews on the use of EU funds for transport infrastructure. But will the stars of the EU show listen to their critics before the spotlight is turned on the new transport spending policies?

‘Historic’ agreement on TEN-T guidelines

The Commission appears to have re-launched its trans-European transport networks (TEN-T) strategy. The transport commissioner Siim Kallas described an agreement last month between Commission officials, MEPs and representatives of member states as ‘a historic agreement to create a powerful European transport network’. Yet the agreement merely takes the existing TEN-T up to 2020, and even then there is likely to be less money available than will be needed to fund all the EU’s list of transport infrastructure projects.

More than just a road hangs on the battle for second trans-Alpine tunnel

Switzerland is reassessing its view of trans-Alpine transport, a process that could have repercussions for the whole of Europe. A recent consultation process will lead to a proposal, expected next month, to revise the Swiss Road Transit Traffic Act to allow a second trans-Alpine road tunnel, a move that has alarmed environmental campaigners.

MEPs support sustainability and unsustainability at the same time

MEPs are voting for more sustainability with one hand and unsustainable projects with the other. That is the message from a group of NGOs after MEPs voted to strengthen sustainability safeguards for infrastructure projects that could receive EU funding, but at the same time voted to support certain transport projects that will take Europe further away from its sustainability goals.

Ministers’ call for road funding defies CEF agreement

EU transport ministers have contradicted the Commission’s transport infrastructure funding proposals by calling for some of the money to be diverted to road projects. The Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), which replaces the fund for the trans-European transport networks (TEN-T), was put forward last year, with one of its main aims to help the EU achieve its target of reducing greenhouse gases by 60% between 1990 and 2050. For that reason, the Commission had proposed to concentrate funding on rail, intermodal and port projects.

All new infrastructure projects should be ‘climate rated’

T&E has called for the EU to adopt a ‘climate rating’ scheme that would assess all transport infrastructure projects for their contribution to climate change before they are given EU funding. The call comes in the run-up to the review of guidelines for the EU to part-fund transport projects, and has involved T&E commissioning a study that provides the outline of a climate rating system.

Care needed over rail claims

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A new study has suggested that investing in high-speed rail can bring various benefits, but should not be marketed as a major part of efforts to combat climate change. The study, 'The Future of Interurban Passenger Transport' by the Swedish transport economist Per Kågeson, calculates the effect on emissions from building a new high speed line connecting two major cities 500 kilometres apart. It says there is no reason to prohibit investment in high-speed rail on environmental grounds as long as the carbon gains outweigh the emissions during construction, but the greenhouse gas savings are sufficiently small that it would be wrong to justify such investment as a solution to climate change.

New lending criteria needed

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The NGO network CEE Bankwatch says the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development urgently needs to reduce its carbon-heavy investments in new motorways and air travel, and instead promote transport that assists the transition to a low-carbon economy. Its comments come in a consultation by the Bank on how it decides its transport lending in central and eastern Europe. Bankwatch also says the Bank’s ‘private sector at just about all costs’ approach is leading to bad lending decisions, and it should ensure that railway restructuring does not become a misleading term that takes trade off the rails because of higher costs.

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