On 28 February, the Swiss go to the polls in a referendum that could have major implications for north-south goods transport in Europe. The vote itself is whether to build a second road tunnel through the Gotthard Alpine mountain between the towns of Göschenen and Airolo, but T&E’s two Swiss members are making the case that the issue is much bigger than that.
Representatives of EU governments have signed off on a deal that will put an end to brick-shaped lorry designs and clear the way for advances in fuel efficiency and safety for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. The agreement allows lorrymakers to produce new designs but the truck industry secured a ban until 2022 even though the new designs are voluntary, not mandatory.
There are concerns for the future of lorry design proposals that would drastically improve road safety, after a vote in the European Parliament was postponed earlier this month. The Transport Committee will not decide until March 18 on the long-awaited rules governing driver visibility, lorry-crash performance and more aerodynamic, emissions-saving design.
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.
"The role of the Commission in advancing the road pricing agenda cannot be underestimated", T&E Director Jos Dings stated at the Conference on fair and efficient road pricing organised by the European Commission on 5 Dec:
Road pricing is progressing because the list of its advantages is impressive. No wonder ever more countries in Europe are choosing for road user charging, and we are having a conference about its future.
An alliance of road freight interests has launched ‘Green Freight Europe’, aimed at working out a reliable method of measuring emissions from lorries. The group of hauliers, transport logistics firms and companies that use lorries to transport goods set out its scheme last month in the presence of the EU transport commissioner Siim Kallas. Estimates of today’s fuel efficiency of lorries vary widely.
Hungary’s supreme court has awarded financial compensation to two residents who complained that their lives were made a misery and their houses reduced in value by speeding lorries along highway 86 in the west of the country.
By Jos Dings
We always felt the economic crisis, with its associated scarcity of public money, could bring about more than just misery. We thought it could be the trigger for positive reforms towards more sustainable transport. And there are now signs that things are slowly starting to move in this direction.
Opinion by Jos Dings - T&E Director
Did we miss something? Last year, the European Commission didn’t propose a single new legislative measure to clean up transport. To be fair, it has been spending most of its time worrying about the future of the Eurozone. As a result, for T&E this was the sort of year where seeds for smarter transport policy were sown. We’re optimistic that next year could bring a decent crop of positive changes.