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Graphic element Research > Growth > Research projects > Land & marine transport projects > Ambitious transport strategies for land, sea and air
Graphic element Ambitious transport strategies for land, sea and air
    04-12-2002
 

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.

Aviation fastest growing
 

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 level.”

 
Space – a new strategic priority
 

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 defence.

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 strategy.

 
Long-term commitment in rail
 

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.”

 
Cross-sectoral debate
 

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.

 
Implications of interoperable railways
 

Rail integration 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 and freight.

“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 Busquin.

 
Surface transport – 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.

 
Aviation fastest growing
Space – a new strategic priority
Long-term commitment in rail
Cross-sectoral debate
Implications of interoperable railways
Challenge of intermodality
Surface transport – new perspective under FP6
   
     

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