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Portugal cuts road projects after economists say they don't help the economy

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Portugal has announced it is postponing construction of five major roads totalling nearly 1000 kilometres. The reason given is to cut expenditure from the national budget, but the relevant minister says there is a need to rethink the country’s transport network on a multi-modal basis.

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.

EIB suspends funding

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The European Investment Bank has suspended loans for the building of a motorway in Slovakia because the government has broken EU and national environmental laws. The decision follows complaints from the Slovak Friends of the Earth NGO that the proposed D1 motorway will go through two national parks and protected areas of the Natura 2000 network, despite a less damaging route being available. The NGO is also lobbying the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to reject making a €250 million loan until questions required under EU and Slovak laws have been answered.

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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