In the run-up to the launch of
the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), integration and co-ordination have
been the major themes of a series of conferences and events addressing
future transport needs on land, at sea and in the air. While research
conducted under the FP5’s GROWTH programme achieved notable successes,
new advisory bodies are now promoting visionary strategies aimed at maintaining
European competitiveness and enhancing citizens’ comfort and safety over
the next 10 to 20 years.
Published in September 2001, the European Commission’s
white paper, entitled ‘European transport policy for 2010: time to decide’
placed users’ needs and competitiveness at the heart of transport policy.
This new focus underlies much of the work now being pursued in all of
the transport sectors as we move from FP5 to FP6: the establishment of
trans-European networks, fair pricing, environmental protection, safety,
social safeguards and the strengthening of the single market. With traffic
increasing at a rate of about 3.5% a year and with freight transport set
to double over the next 15 to 20 years, the EU is determined to encourage
and invest in transport research and technological development (RTD).
The transport sector has been at the forefront in
the creation of the European Research Area (ERA), coordinating research
activities and harmonising research and innovation policies at national
and EU levels. Prime examples of this are the ACARE and ERRAC initiatives
(see below). Both are concrete steps on the road to a coherent and effective
transport research strategy.
Of all the forms
of transport, aviation has shown by far the most striking growth
over recent decades. Traffic through the airports of the 15 Member
States has risen at an average rate of 7.4% a year since 1980 –
and, despite the downturn following the events of 11 September 2001
in the United States, substantial growth is expected to continue
over the next decade. This has already led to airport overcrowding,
overloaded air traffic control systems, increased noise pollution
and greenhouse gas emissions.
Against this background, a group of personalities
chaired by Commissioner Philippe Busquin presented its January 2001
report European Aeronautics: A vision for 2020 (Report of the Group
of Personalities January 2001 KI-34-01-827-EN). Its proposal to
create a new Advisory Council for Aeronautics Research in Europe
(ACARE), whose goal would be to develop and implement a strategic
approach to European aeronautics research, was duly adopted. The
committee began work formally in June 2001.
A year later, ACARE [link to the ACARE article]
unveiled the outline of a strategic research agenda (SRA), which
will serve as an overall guide in the planning of research in national
and EU programmes involving both public and private sectors. The
blueprint calls for integrated technological platforms, large-scale
research test-beds, trans-national projects, and schemes to nurture
innovation and technology transfer. ACARE also strongly supports
the March 2002 Barcelona Council objective of raising average EU
R&D spending to 3% of European GDP by 2010, and targets a figure
of €100 billion for aeronautics research investment.
Speaking at the Farnborough International Air
Show in the UK in 2002, Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin said:
“I welcome ACARE’s findings. In a global and highly competitive
market, European enterprises cannot be successful unless they join
forces with the EU and Member States. Building on a vision for aeronautics
in the 21st century, we can avoid duplication of effort and waste
of resources, and pool forces to reach a critical mass at the European
||Space – a new
Today, space is no
longer the exclusive realm of scientists and astronauts. Space technologies
have penetrated every field of economic, social and cultural life.
Whole sectors of human activity depend on the exploitation of space,
including telecommunications, meteorology, cartography, environmental
observation and surveillance, agriculture, transport, security and
Although aeronautics and space are distinct
industries, they share common features and are both highly strategic
domains. The September 2000 joint European Commission and European
Space Agency (ESA) Communication, entitled ‘Europe and space: turning
to a new chapter’, represented an important step towards a coherent
space strategy. Now, with its creation of a separate ‘Aeronautics
and space’ thematic priority under FP6, the Commission has taken
a further step towards a unified European aeronautics and space
Similar moves are
taking place in the rail industry, a long-established priority of
successive research framework programmes. At the opening of the
world congress on railway research in Cologne on 26 November 2001,
Commissioner Busquin launched a European Rail Research Advisory
Council (ERRAC) [link to the ERRAC article] bringing together all
stakeholders in the European rail sector.
ERRAC members include high-level decision makers
from Member States, the European Commission, manufacturing industry,
operators, and infrastructure managers. It also includes people
from research establishments and academia, environmental and urban
planning organisations, and transport users groups. The Council’s
primary mission is to establish and carry forward a Strategic Rail
Research Agenda (SRRA) that will speed up the emergence of a single
European railway network.
“ERRAC is a long-term initiative,” says Philippe
Renard, Council chairman and head of research at the French national
rail company SNCF. “If we really mean to develop the high quality,
efficient, safe and clean rail system we are aiming for, we are
going to need all of the important players in the sector to commit
themselves to a common rail research strategy. Part of my mandate
as ERRAC Chairman is to establish the right climate for getting
people together and the conditions for fostering a real and lasting
spirit of collaboration.
“The rail transport sector is facing a number
of difficult challenges today. Meeting the needs and demands of
society is going to require a concerted effort, like nothing the
industry has ever seen before. Within the next 20 years we expect
to reduce pollution, including noise pollution, by one half, reduce
energy consumption and reduce the number of fatal accidents.
“With the directive on rail interoperability
taking effect, we are now moving towards a unified European rail
network, while at the same time, over the medium term, we have to
revitalise and maintain major elements of existing infrastructure.
All of this is to be accompanied by a projected two-fold increase
in passenger traffic and a tripling of freight traffic.
“One thing is clear,” insists Renard. “None
of our goals will be attainable without joint research and technological
development between European partners, including all of the European
countries, the national authorities, and the European authorities,
right down to the train users themselves.”
Another major conference,
‘Surface transport policies for sustainable transport’, held in
Valencia, Spain, from 4 to 6 June 2002, scored a first in bringing
together leading figures from the European road, rail and maritime
transport sectors, together with top European policy makers and
guests from around the world. More than 800 participants were treated
to three days of advanced transport concepts and technologies presented
by some of the world’s leading experts.
In a welcoming address, Commissioner Busquin
stressed the leading role being played by transport research in
the construction of the European Research Area. “When Europeans
work together we are the strongest,” he said. “The ERA will allow
a truly European transport policy to be realised and it is very
encouraging to see how, in the field of surface transport, the concept
of the ERA has been so clearly understood and acted upon.
“Many exciting and important technological developments
have already been achieved. I think we can even speak in some cases
of truly revolutionary developments resulting in radical changes
within a given sector. To cite just one example, a broad technological
platform on fuel cells has been identified, based on what has been
referred to as ‘the economy of hydrogen’. I would call for the creation
of more such platforms, gathering all of the relevant players around
a crucial technology.”
The launch of a new Road Transport Research
Advisory Committee (RTRAC) was a major event during the conference.
Like the ACARE and ERRAC initiatives, the group will bring together
a wide variety of stakeholders, including car manufacturers, the
oil industry, research institutes and policy makers. “These groups
represent first steps in the creation of all-encompassing research
strategies within their fields, bringing together the leading players
irrespective of whether they come from industry, academia or the
research or political worlds,” the Commissioner stated.
was once more under discussion in Valencia. According to Werner
Breitling, Deputy General-Director of the International Union of
Railways (UIC) in Paris, this not only requires full access by interoperable
rolling stock to interoperable lines, but also technical harmonisation
of the European railway market and cross-acceptance of the certification
of railway materials between EU Member States.
“We already have European Directives on this
subject, and a number of different technology areas are being called
upon to contribute to the achievement of rail interoperability,”
said Breitling. “For example we can look at improving the infrastructure
and the control and command and signalling systems. We can talk
about improving the rolling stock and its environmental performance.
We also need to establish common telematics applications for passengers
“A lot of work is going into this area and I
think that as we move towards interoperability we are taking the
opportunity to rethink many of the aspects of our infrastructures,
and that is positive.”
||Challenge of intermodality
Intermodality was another key
topic at the conference. ERRAC Chairman Philippe Renard identified
this as one of five main themes that are crucial to the realisation
of a highly innovative and competitive European rail transport system.
Improving the transition from one mode of transport
to another – transferring goods or passengers from cars to trains,
from trains to boats, and from boats back to the roads – will require
a great deal of inter-disciplinary research. The transport industry
thus faces major scientific, technical and environmental challenges.
“Living up to these challenges will require
a clear and coherent vision of where we want to go and a unified
European research strategy for getting there,” concluded Commissioner
– new perspective under FP6
Under FP6, research
on surface transport, including rail, road and maritime modes, will
be supported under the ‘Sustainable development, global change and
ecosystems’ thematic priority. This new orientation underlines the
overarching goal of sustainable surface transport, which implies
reduced energy consumption and pollution emission.