An agreement between EU governments and the European Parliament on the so-called ‘market pillar’ of the fourth railway package means the plan to open up domestic passenger rail to competition from 2020 will be ratified in autumn 2016 and countries will then have three years to implement it.
A Portuguese regional airport that was expanded with large amounts of EU funding has announced plans to turn itself into an aircraft parking facility because demand for the airport has fallen badly short of predictions. The case highlights T&E’s call for greater scrutiny of public money being used to prop up carbon-intensive, underutilised infrastructure with questionable social and economic benefits.
A controversy is growing in Germany about future funding mechanisms for building and maintaining roads. The federal government and the 16 state governments are looking at new financing options involving the private sector, but T&E’s member VCD has criticised the direction in which the discussions are going, saying they take no account of the need to fight climate change and changing transport trends.
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.
Better regulation. Who would not want to win this most elusive of prizes for the art of governing? As far back as 2002 (at least, that’s as far as our memory goes back) the Commission has been saying it does. You can argue over whether it has been sincere. At least this Commission has been honest; Juncker himself settled the debate by declaring it’s about less regulation. How naive we were to think it was about quality not quantity.
Transport is the greatest consumer of energy in the developed world, consuming more than industry, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has found for the second consecutive year. In the EU, transport still lags behind industry in total final energy consumption, but the gap is narrowing, and road transport’s continued reliance on oil is making the sector increasingly slow to embrace lower-emission energy.
The role of shared mobility in shaping European transport is likely to be influenced by a Spanish case referred to the European Court of Justice. A judge in Barcelona has asked the court to rule on whether Uber, the smartphone application for hailing taxis, often unlicensed, should be regulated as a digital or transport service. Meanwhile, the European Commission has launched its own investigation into how to deal with Uber, which will run in parallel with the court case.
It is impossible to have missed the news on cheap oil and gas, and what it is doing to our economies. A Google search for ‘oil price drop’ shows you what Reuters, BBC, Bloomberg, Forbes, etc – the big boys – have to say on the subject. And shale plays a key role in both. And indeed, oil costs less than it did in 2008 and 2012. And indeed, this is having a big economic impact. It means that Europe in 2014 saved around 1% of GDP, more than €100 billion, in import bills. A free and welcome boost. But this column is not seeking to add to what Reuters has to say. It wants to offer two other perspectives.