Efforts to expose Europe’s rail companies to more competition have moved a step forward, with the EU’s Fourth Rail Package being approved by MEPs. The measure was controversial in some respects, but T&E has given the news a cautious welcome.
By Jelena Simjanovic, clean energy directorWHAT I LEARNED IN 2016: I joined T&E in late summer, soon after the European Commission published its Low-emission Mobility Strategy. Its goals looked promising: increasing efficiency of the transport system; speeding up the development of low-emission alternative energy for transport; and moving towards zero-emission vehicles. While I had a general idea about biofuels and sustainability issues around them, I entered the transport world after 10 years of working on a variety of energy sector issues and carbon markets. I feel privileged to have a job where I can learn as much as I have learned in the past five months, while at the same time utilising my extensive knowledge of the electricity and energy markets for the discussion on transport electrification and development.
CO2 standards for new vehicles have been proven to work and new targets should be introduced for 2025 and 2030, a report for the European Parliament’s transport committee has said. The limited quantities of available biofuels are also highlighted, while the shift to electric vehicles is ‘inevitable’.
New research has suggested that investing in public and low-emission transport could bring massive financial savings in addition to making a sizeable contribution to reducing greenhouse gases.
Plans to develop a Europe-wide road-charging scheme have been unveiled by EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bluc. The charging of cars and lorries for road use based on distance driven would be optional, allowing member states to not participate if they did not wish to.
The Commission is consulting on whether EU rules on combined transport are working or need updating. Combined transport – which is generally taken to mean freight movements that are largely by rail or water but with the start and end by road – is regulated by an EU directive dating from 1992. It aims to promote combined transport through reducing restrictions, eliminating authorisation procedures, and offering financial support through fiscal incentives for certain combined transport operations.
A project to create the world’s first ‘sustainable motorway’ has been launched in the Netherlands by two environmental organisations, T&E members Milieudefensie and Natuur & Milieu.
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.