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Transport policy and sustainable development

A basic concept of the Common European Market is the free movement of people, goods and services. In 1992, the European Union issued a White Paper on transport. This identified the serious imbalances in Europe’s transport system including bottlenecks such as the Brenner transalpine route in Austria and the poor network in a number of peripheral parts of the Union. In addition, road transport was creating significant increases to atmospheric pollution and dangerous roads resulted in 44,000 deaths a year.

 

To address these problems the common transport policy established a Trans-European Network for Transport (TEN-T). Other objectives of the policy embrace the concept of modal choice and related to the integration of transport networks to encourage switching to less polluting or underused modes including rail and inland waterways; protecting the environment relating principally to pollution control; and safety including the harmonisation of construction standards and improved infrastructure. Also the European Union is encouraging a reversal to the decline in rail freight.

 

Seven objectives were approved for TEN-T, in particular objective 1 states:

 

“Ensure the sustainable and safe mobility of persons and goods within the area without internal frontiers under the best possible social conditions, while contributing to the attainment of the Community’s environmental objectives”.

 

The associated guidelines approved by the European Parliament in 1996 support the objective under Article 2 which requires that TENs should contribute to the Community’s environmental objectives.

 

The 1996 extent of the TEN-T throughout E.U. member states comprised the construction and upgrading of 140 road schemes including:

  - c. 15,000 km of new motorway;

- 11 rail links;


- 57 combined transport projects;

- 26 inland waterways.

 

The development of the TEN-T remains one of the European Union’s top priorities and has received significant funding; for example ECU 38.4 billion in 1996-97 from Community funds and European Investment Bank loans. For the period 2000-2006 the Commission’s budget is ECU 5 billion and it seeks to encourage public – private partnerships.

 

A more recent initiative of the European Union and arising from TEN-T is the Pan-European Corridor for Central and Eastern Europe. The planning and development of these routes is known as TINA (Transport Infrastructure Needs Assessment).

 

Alpine Convention

 The Convention on the Protection of the Alps (Alpine Convention) 1991 recognises the ecological importance of the Alps including for a number of endangered species. In addition it appreciates the importance of transport routes across the region. Article 2 of the Convention requires signatories to undertake a number of measures such as to protect and conserve the natural environment and the countryside, and reduce the volume and dangers of Alpine traffic so that it is not harmful to humans or animals or plants, in particular by encouraging road freight traffic to use the railways. To meet these objectives a number of Protocols have been established, with one for transport in 2000.

 

Vienna Declaration

 

The Vienna Declaration was adopted in 1997 by the Regional Conference on Transport and the Environment of the UN-ECE. Within the context of an anticipated increase in demand for transport, the Declaration called for its development to be undertaken “within the framework of sustainable development” including the principles of protection, precaution, prevention and ‘polluter pays’ to meet objectives such as preserving public health and ecosystems.

 

The Declaration sets out recommendations and an Action Plan relating to the promotion of energy efficient and less polluting vehicles and fuels including:

 

III Efficient and sustainable transport systems

IV Protection of sensitive areas

V Safe transport of dangerous goods

VI Prevention of water pollution

 

The Action Plan encourages the application of strategic environmental assessment in the transport planning process at the international and national level, with obligatory environmental impact assessment relating to individual schemes at a national level. Also at the national level, it calls for the protection of landscape and ecologically sensitive areas with respect to the existing and proposed road and rail infrastructure. A review of the Action Plan is proposed in 2002 and 2007.

 

“Environment for Europe”, Aarhus

 

In 1998, the year following the Vienna Declaration, the fourth Ministerial Conference “Environment for Europe” held at Aarhus declared that further action was required with respect to the growth in traffic, the associated biological diversity/habitat loss and the need “to secure a sustainable and environmentally sound pattern of transport”. The same conference saw the requirement to develop economic and financial incentives to assist with the integration of biological diversity and landscape conservation into sectional policies.

 

Hanover Conference (CEMAT)

 

The Guiding Principles for Sustainable Spatial Development of the European Continent, adopted in 2000 at the Hanover Conference of the European Conference of Ministers responsible for Regional Planning (CEMAT), emphasise the importance of both the TEN-T and TINA network, in particular the need for a rapid completion of missing links so as to improve regional accessibility (Council of Europe 2000, para 20, 21, 34).

 

Euro-corridors are presented as a priority in the implementation of the Guiding Principles on account of the perceived (but not necessarily proven) association with economic development. Importantly (para. 61) states that the investment in Euro-corridors should take account of the ‘needs of environmental protection’. It goes on to say:

 

“Major transport projects should not therefore be undertaken without assessing their direct and indirect impact. Structural planning measures must be introduced to reduce any negative effects and highlight their positive impact at local and regional level. Such measures should include spatial and environmental impact assessments for plans, programmes and projects, the co-ordination of regional and inter regional major infrastructure, large-scale landscape planning, securing protected areas or concentrations of roads, railway lines and navigable waterways in a single corridor.”

 

With respect to transport paragraph 61 is particularly important as it directly relates to one of the main objectives of the Guiding Principles. In relation to the transport network the ten point programme stresses that:

 

“the networks should, if necessary, be reviewed and augmented taking sustainable  development and environmental aspects into account.”

 

In addition to the consideration of transport needs CEMAT recognised the role of enhancing and protecting natural resources and the natural heritage in an integrated spatial planning policy.  

 
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