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The latest report from the European Court of Auditors (ECA) looks at 26 projects in 11 cities in five member states, and says two thirds of the schemes have not achieved the user levels predicted when the EU funding was applied for. The auditors say the Commission has to be more rigorous about analysing predicted user levels before giving money to a project, and it needs to measure whether the levels are achieved once the project is completed.
The report follows a similar one last summer, in which the ECA said EU funds were going to road projects where traffic forecasts proved to be well below what was expected. The message from the report was also similar: that transport projects should only be eligible for EU money ‘when there is a clear traffic need’.
The latest ECA report looked at three railway modernisation schemes, eight metros, four light metros, six tram systems and one bus project – plus four IT projects relating to operating, information or ticketing – across five states: Spain, France, Italy, Poland and Portugal. All 26 schemes received EU funding, mainly from regional development and cohesion funds, indeed 85% of the funding typically came from the EU.
The auditor responsible for the report, Iliana Ivanova, said the ECA’s findings meant ‘underperformance in terms of economic and social benefits, such as reduction of pollution levels and congestion’. She added: ‘In these times of budgetary constraints, each euro spent from the European budget should effectively address identified needs.’
Environmental NGOs have long been sceptical about the way EU money is used for transport projects, with fears that applications are made on the basis of prestige projects without the full transport and environmental implications being thought through. T&E has said all EU-funded projects should have independent traffic forecasts to underpin the cost-benefit analysis and environmental impact assessment and make the case both in terms of best value for money and environmental benefits.