Launched 15 years ago, the trans-European networks (TENs) were supposed to symbolise the EU’s ability to assist with transnational projects, and they have cost around €400 billion in total.
Now the Commission wants to review the policy for developing the transport TENs in the light of ‘new challenges’ so has published a green (consultation) paper in which it floats certain ideas.
‘Climate change objectives should first and foremost guide any approach towards the development of a possible priority network,’ the paper says, adding that a revised TEN-T policy should seek ‘to make a noticeable contribution to the Community’s 20/20/20 climate change objectives.’ It says climate issues were ‘simply not at the forefront of public debate’ when the TEN-T programme was established in the mid-1990s.
Elsewhere in the green paper, the need to fully assess the environmental impacts of TEN-T projects is recognised, and it talks of undertaking a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of the whole network.
In a new development, the Commission for the first time notes the importance of demand management measures, including internalising external costs in user charging, and intelligent transport systems.
T&E policy officer Nina Renshaw said: ‘There are some good things, but also some worrying signs in this paper. It is encouraging to see the recognition for climate change, and we hope the mention of an SEA for the network will lead to a commitment to investigate the impacts of both construction and operation of the network, including different demand scenarios.
‘But there are plenty of signs that many lessons have not been learned. The green paper talks about the inevitability of freight increasing and the parallel need to expand transport infrastructure, despite the failure of “predict and provide” policies in the past. There are mentions of longer lorries and expanding airport capacity, and an implicit acceptance of the discredited mantra that economic growth requires transport growth.’
While climate change gets a prominent position in the green paper, many mentions of it talk of ‘the need to adapt to climate change’ and how to ‘climate-proof transport infrastructure’, rather than transport helping to reduce the EU’s contribution to climate change.
The green paper is now available for public consultation until the end of April.