SECOND OPINION OF THE EXTERNAL ADVISORY GROUP
KEY ACTION SUSTAINABLE MOBILITY AND INTERMODALITY
The work of the External Advisory Group (EAG) focused on the revision of the Work Programme (WP) relating to the Key Action "Sustainable Mobility and Intermodality" (Programme 3, Fifth Framework Programme), and on the tasks to be included in the Second Call (December 1999) and Third Call (June 2000) for proposals. The EAG provided a forum for consultation and discussion, by means of which the Commission was able to draw on the knowledge of external experts in the shaping and formulation of the WP and the tasks. The members of the EAG were given, among other documents, copies of the WP and a list of possible tasks together with brief descriptions of each task, outlining the problem addressed and the expected results. At each stage of the consultation process, the tasks were revised and amended in the light of the discussions with the EAG.
Meetings were held on 20/04/99, 17/05/99, 18/06/99, 17/09/99 and 15/10/99.
Both the Commission and the EAG acknowledged that the principal role of the Group was to provide strategic advice and overall guidance to the Commission in order to:
- Ensure that the tasks proposed by the Commission were relevant to the objectives of the WP, and reflected the challenges and goals of the Key Action "Sustainable Mobility and Intermodality".
- Advise on the priority to be given to each task (taking into account such factors as previous and on-going research). It was generally recognised that, due to limited resources, the tasks must focus on only the most essential research with clear European added value.
- Consider the scope of the task, and identify aspects that should be added/deleted as well as potential links and mergers between tasks.
In practice, discussion of the tasks tended to be rather detailed and to focus excessively on the merits/shortcomings of individual tasks. The written comments, submitted by some members of the Group, sometimes included proposals for new tasks, going beyond the remit of the EAG. However, constructive ideas and suggestions made were taken on-board and incorporated into the proposed tasks, e.g. the regional dimension of a number of problems.
A number of points, referring to horizontal issues rather than specific sub-objectives or tasks, were raised by the EAG during the consultation process:
The Commission's overall approach to the tasks was considered to be rather prescriptive. Although this approach (top-down) is considered to be appropriate for policy driven research, the Group was in favour of a more open-ended approach that would allow proposers to express their creativity, unhindered by a pre-defined list of tasks. One suggestion was to allocate a portion of available resources to a "basket" of unspecified tasks that could allow proposers to present proposal addressing the objectives of the key action in a bottom up approach.
The need to reduce the number of tasks encouraged the combination of linked tasks to form larger, more broadly based tasks. However, it was recognised that tasks must be sufficiently specific in order to deliver significant and precise results in addressing a given problem.
The Group recognised the need to vary the budgets for each call in order to manage overall spending levels but pointed out that the significant changes in the 2000 calls budgets had created difficulties in advising which tasks should be allocated to each call.
It was generally agreed that the tasks sometimes did not meet the objectives of "sustainable mobility" and "intermodality", as established in the WP. Some tasks were considered to be mode-oriented, and in some cases the "sustainable mobility" and "intermodality" elements of a sub-objective were brought into question (e.g. 2.2.3 and 2.3.2). However it was recognised that efficient modal operations were essential to achieving a properly functioning intermodal and sustainable transportation. Thus modal and intermodal tasks have to be combined to ensure proper solutions to the transport system problems.
However, opinions were divided on the tasks addressing road infrastructure. Some members of the Group were concerned about the number of tasks being proposed for a single mode, and suggested that some tasks were merged. Others emphasised the importance of road transport in a sustainable and intermodal transport system, and insisted that each task was necessary.
This debate highlighted the difficulty in establishing a balance between addressing urgent problems related to a single mode, and fostering a cross-modal/intermodal approach necessary to achieving the objectives of the WP.
It was agreed that the policy importance of an issue is not strictly related to the need to do research on it.
In order to monitor and take into account the work carried out by other Key Actions and Programmes the Group entrusted some of its members to monitor and report transport related activities of other Key Actions.
As an example it was discusses if tasks related with aircraft safety would not be more adequate for the aeronautics Key Action.
The importance of building on the results of previous research was emphasised. The EAG asked the Commission to provide information on the links between the proposed tasks for the Second/Third Calls and the projects carried out in FP4/ planned for the First Call in FP5. In this way, potential duplication of research could be identified and useful results could be fully exploited. The Group also stressed the need to take into account the results of research carried out at a national level (see next paragraph).
Several tasks proposed by the Commission referred specifically to regional and local issues. The Group questioned
(a) why some of these tasks were limited to particular regions, and
(b) the involvement of the EU in regional and local issues.
(a) Members of the Group noted that tasks which addressed a particular region were not of uniform interest to all member states. For example, the limited relevance to Southern member states of the task relating to the European Northern Dimension was recognised.
A new task was proposed by one member of the Group, "The integration of peripheral and isolated regions into mainstream Europe". Although the task was not adopted as such, it was agreed that it covered an important issue that should be fully considered in drawing up all tasks where it is relevant.
(b) The Commission emphasised its role as a facilitator, rather than an authority, in regional and local issues. It was understood that the principle of subsidiarity should always be respected, and that the European added value of the tasks should be clear.
It was accepted to have two calls to implement the workprogramme update, one in December 1999 and the second one in June 2000. Following the suggestions of the Commission it was recommended to concentrate the remaining budget in a single call in 2001. The Group also suggested that one call in March (instead of in June) would lead to a better acceptance by the researchers from all parts of Europe given the summer recess.
The adequacy of the evaluation criteria was generally accepted. Nevertheless it was felt that the equal weight of the criteria was not sufficiently appropriate in this Key Action. The top down approach guarantees already to a large extent the European Added Value and the Social and Economic relevance. Therefore it was proposed that the weight of the criterion of scientific and technical merit should be increased to 40% and that of the other criteria reduced to 15%.
The Group sought clarification concerning the range of contracts that were available to fund a project (RTD, AC, TN, COMB, DEMO). In particular, information was requested about the criteria used by the Commission in deciding among the different types of action, Accompanying Measure and Shared Cost and the subsequent level of funding. It was explained that the level of commercial and public interest in a research project determined the amount of funding provided by the Commission. (All information on this matter is available in the WP and Guides for Proposers).
Some members put questions about Combined Action contracts. It was feared that such actions could cause accounting difficulties due to the combination of different funding arrangements for each part of the project. It was suggested that, wherever possible, the research and demonstration elements should be separate, but that, at the same time, strong contractual links should be established.
Comments on Sub-Objectives
There was a great deal of detailed discussion of the proposed tasks. In this context, it would not be feasible to give an account of more than a summary of some of the main points raised about each sub-objective.
2.1.1 Quantitative tools for decision-making
It was agreed that the development of a reliable European Transport Information System was a priority. However, the precise role of research (as distinct from administrative and organisational factors) in its development, as well as the nature and objectives of the data to be included, must be clearly defined. The need to improve the methods of collecting statistics on intra-European flows was highlighted, given the present poor statistical situation as a result of the single market, while taking into account activities in other international organisations.
2.1.2 Driving forces in transport
It was suggested that more thought should be given to the impact of leisure and tourism on transport needs. It was also considered necessary to take into account "endogenous" driving forces, including the effects of technological developments, and the quality/organisation of transport services on demand and use patterns.
2.1.3 Policies for sustainable mobility
The need was emphasised, for further research in pricing as tool for sustainable mobility. Securing accessibility and cost-efficient mobility in peripheral regions was also discussed. Particular attention should be paid to the access to the activity centres of the core of Europe.
2.2.1 Transport infrastructure and means
It was felt that the benefits of intermodality needed to be more fully explored as these were not necessarily universally great. Other points raised included the effects of climate on road infrastructure, and the use of recycled materials in road construction. A lack of references to land-use planning was noted.
Attention was drawn to the impact of transport on the environment, a topic that covered a wide range of issues: the visual impact of transport infrastructure, regulatory and operational matters, tourism etc..
A lack of intermodality and sustainability in these tasks was noted. Some tasks were thought to be rather specific. Cross-fertilisation of the activities across modes should be encouraged.
It was agreed that the effect of the transport system, as a whole, on security was an important issue. The opening up of borders within Europe to improve transport links would have serious implications for security.
2.2.5 Human Factors
The need to improve education and training material, their communication channels across the whole transport system and their effectiveness was emphasised.
2.3.1 Traffic management systems
The ATM tasks were regarded as high priority. It was emphasised that research activities in this area must be clearly specified and closely co-ordinated with national ATM agencies, Eurocontrol and other relevant actors.
A recommendation was made to consider the development of information handling in the logistics chain (including tracking and tracing of cargo and communication).
2.3.2 Transport and mobility services
Greater emphasis on intermodality in these tasks was suggested. The importance of the optimisation of modal and intermodal transport services was recognised.
Discussions with the EAG covered a wide range of issues and led to some differences of opinion of different members on specific points. However, at each stage of the process, there was greater consensus on the shape of the proposed tasks. The final version of the tasks to be reflected in the revised workprogramme for the December 1999 and June 2000 calls will be the result of the combined efforts of the Commission and the EAG, and evidence of their commitment to the promotion of a sustainable and intermodal transport system.