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Graphic element Research > Growth > Research projects > Mobility and intermodality projects > Airships - a new weapon in the battle against traffic congestion
Graphic element Airships - a new weapon in the battle
against traffic congestion

Congestion is the scourge of European cities. EU financed research projects have shown that new transport concepts, such as airships, may solve some of the problems.

The costs of traffic congestion are enormous. In the EU, the total costs of road congestion have been estimated at around 120 billion Euro or some 2% of GDP. Congestion costs in European aviation are at least 2.4 billion Euro, and railway costs amount to about 0.15 billion.

Reducing the congestion problems would reduce both the individual and the external costs of transport. Some of the projects in EU's Fourth Framework Programme aimed to identify and assess new means of transport that have potential to ease congestion, including their feasibility, suitable areas of application, impacts and need for policy intervention.

New concepts of transport

One project has provided a structured overview of about 100 new transport concepts to reduce congestion. The project identified the potential of these new concepts, with a particular focus on innovative concepts that are already at an advanced stage. The project recommends some new solutions to reduce congestion.

High capacity elevated passenger transport systems such as the H-Bahn Dortmund and the Wuppertaler Schwebebahn offer good potential for reducing congestion in urban and inter-urban environments, as the backbone of a public transport system.

Underground concepts such as the Underground Logistics System provide an efficient means of freight distribution and intermodal freight handling. They rely on automated and driver-less electric vehicles that run in tunnels, and require moderately expensive new infrastructure.

Finally, airships are promising for both passenger and freight transport, and their costs are not particularly high. The CargoLifter is a prominent example of a logistic solution in bulky and heavy cargo transport, replacing a whole shipment chain.

Other measures to reduce congestion

One important lesson to be drawn from the EU research is that no single strategy can dramatically bring down the level of congestion. New transport concepts cannot do it alone, but must be combined with other measures, such as pricing and traffic management.

Congestion poses a serious risk to European economic competitiveness. Therefore, in its recent Policy Guidelines of the White Paper on a common transport policy, the Commission proposes to expand infrastructure capacity to remove bottlenecks, reform policy on charging for infrastructure use, and promote the exchange of good practice on urban traffic management.

  More information

More information on EU research related to congestion can be found on the European Commission's web site:


  Further Information and Notes to Editors


The transport research programme forms part of the Fourth Framework Programme, which set out the activities to be launched by the European Community in the field of Research and Technological Development (RTD) between 1994 and 1998.

The transport programme focused on helping to achieve the objectives of the Community's Common Transport Policy (CTP), namely efficient and cost-effective transport networks for goods and passengers while minimising both energy consumption and the social and environmental impacts of transport. The Commission has contributed ECU 270 million Euro to the programme, with further funding (often 50%) coming from project partners and their sponsors.

The transport programme has financed around 280 projects within seven main areas of research: strategic research; rail transport; air transport; waterborne transport; road transport; urban transport; and integrated transport chains. The programme was set up by the former DGVII (Transport), and is now managed by the Directorate-General for Energy and Transport. Altogether 161 projects and concerted actions were commissioned on efficiency aspects of transport research, with a total EU contribution of 230 million Euro.
Under the Fifth Framework Programme, which started up in 1999, transport policy research is based around themes rather than transport modes. The work is covered by the Key Action "Sustainable Mobility and Intermodality", and the European Commission expects to contribute 370 million Euro.

Other transport-related RTD is carried out elsewhere in the Fifth Framework programme - covering such topics as aeronautics, urban development, and new vehicle and information technologies.

The transport programme can only achieve its objectives if project results are effectively disseminated to people who can use them - notably policy-makers, planners, industry and the research community.

Therefore the Commission has funded a project specifically aimed at disseminating information on the transport programme as a whole, supplementing the more limited efforts of each project. The aim is to use cost-effective means of communication to specific audiences in the EU and in Central and Eastern Europe.

The project (called EXTRA, EXploitation of TRAnsport research) has developed an Internet site (, opened an Information Bureau and provides complementary activities (newsletters, events) to raise awareness of the programme.

The Information Bureau can be contacted by telephone:
+ 44 (0) 1235 46 42 46,
by fax: + 44 (0) 1235 43 65 51
or by e-mail to:

It provides printed copies of information on the web site, as well as helping with more general enquiries on transport research. A handy web site user guide is provided on request.

Users are encouraged to register with the Bureau to receive monthly e-mail bulletins announcing the latest information on the web.

The next few months should see a large increase in the volume of results. Analyses will be provided on the contribution of research in developing key policy areas.

See also
Website reveals research results on sustainable mobility
New concepts of transport perspective
Other measures to reduce congestion
More information
Further Information and Notes to Editors

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