EU transport aims derailed in new member states

7 December 2006

NGO research: motorways squeeze out public transport in EU funding plans

Brussels, 7 December - EU goals to tackle climate change and curb transport growth are set to be undermined by the EU's own funding for the transport sector in the new member states, according to new research released today by CEE Bankwatch Network and Friends of the Earth Europe (FoEE). Analysis of draft Operational Programmes for the use of Structural and Cohesion Funds shows that the new member states in central and eastern Europe plan to invest massively in roads and motorways at the expense of public transport. [1]

Anelia Stefanova, Transport Coordinator at CEE Bankwatch Network, said: "The EU has committed to improve public transport and to shift transport from roads to railways, but its funds are set to subsidise more lorry and car transport by channelling money into new roads and motorways. The spending plans must be revised and refocused to the EU's sustainable development aims." [2]

The NGO research identifies Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia and Lithuania as the worst performers, planning almost no or very meagre EU funding support for public transport [3], even though clean urban transport is officially one of the EU's six main investment priorities in the transport sector. [4] The other countries perform somewhat better but even their planned investments in public transport are very restricted and mainly concentrated in their capital cities.

Martin Konecny, EU Funds Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, said: "Buses and trams are more climate-friendly than private cars, they use urban space more efficiently and are also safer. The new member states now have a chance to make the right transport choice where western Europe got it wrong - car dependency, noise and air pollution, urban sprawl and chronic congestion can all be avoided by investing more EU funding in public transport." [5]

The campaign groups are urging the European Commission and the member states to urgently revise the national spending plans before they are finalised in the next few months to ensure that at least 75 percent of all transport funding in each member state is allocated for environment-friendly transport investments.

The new funding plans represent a continuation of the business-as-usual pattern in central and eastern Europe over the last 15 years, which has seen most public funds invested into new motorways, while motorway fees cover only a minimal part of their costs. At the same time, public transport and railways in the region have suffered from under-investment and increasingly expensive user charges. [6] As a result of the increasing car and truck traffic, emissions from the transport sector in central and eastern Europe have surged by 35 percent over the last ten years. [7] Czech Republic, Slovenia and Lithuania already have more cars per capita than much richer Denmark. [8]

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Notes for editors:

[1] Approximate transport funding allocations in the 10 CEE countries
for 2007-2013 according to mode:
Roads and motorways: 52%
Railways: 30%
Public passenger transport (urban, suburban, regional): 10%
Inland waterways: 2%
Ports: 2%
Intermodal infrastructure: 1%
Airports: 1%

See chart 2 in the full briefing paper "EU funds for public and environment-friendly
transport" http://www.foeeurope.org/publications/2006/EUfunds4Transport.pdf

[2] The EU's new Sustainable Development Strategy adopted in June 2006 commits to curbing overall transport growth, shifting transport towards railways and modernising public transport.

[3] See chart 3, and details for each country in full briefing at: http://www.foeeurope.org/publications/2006/EUFunds4Transport.pdf

[4] Community Strategic Guidelines on Cohesion 2007-2013 adopted by
the Council and Parliament in October 2006:
http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/sources/docoffic/2007/osc/index_en.htm

[5] Statistics show that buses and trams produce 3-4 times less CO2 emissions and use 20 times less scarce urban space per passenger than private cars. In addition, the number of people seriously injured and killed per driven passenger-kilometres is 10-20 times lower for collective transport than for cars ["Better mobility in urban areas", UITP, 2003]. The NGO research also casts doubt on the claim that motorways are the basis of economic development, see full briefing at: http://www.foeeurope.org/publications/2006/EUFunds4Transport.pdf

[6] Heading down dead ends: Transport sector financing in Central and Eastern Europe. CEE Bankwatch Network, 2004: http://www.bankwatch.org/documents/dead_ends_transport_study_09_04.pdf

[7] European Environment Agency:
http://reports.eea.europa.eu/eea_report_2006_9/en

[8] Nearly one car per two inhabitants in the EU25 in 2004. Eurostat, 2006

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