we radically change the way in which we get around, traffic jams will
lead to city-wide suffocation in the next decade.
Between 1980 and 1997, the number of private cars in the European Union
rose from 100 million to 170 million, with an increase in traffic (calculated
in passenger-kilometres) of 62%. The use made of other modes of transport
increased much less, by single figures.
A similar trend was witnessed for lorries and other utility vehicles
since, in the same time period, their number rose from 10 million to
The increase in traffic (up by 2% each year) causes daily hold-ups;
every day, these traffic jams are like a long ribbon stretching over
4000 kilometres of motorways. In towns (where 80% of Europe's population
lives), the situation has become untenable, with traffic at a standstill,
pollution of the environment and dangers to public health.
When the direct and secondary costs of these traffic jams (accidents,
pollution, etc.) are taken into account, the total is staggering: 250
billion euros, which is equivalent to 4% of the total output of the
European Union's economy.
Faced with this problem, the European Union has decided to place the
emphasis on intermodal transport, making it easier for travellers and
goods to use complementary forms of transport on a single journey.
On 14 February 2000 the EU's Council of Ministers adopted an important
resolution in favour of intermodality, stressing the key role to be
played by European research in proposing innovative solutions.
The projects currently under way are using a number of approaches. Firstly,
they are playing a role in the use of new communication technologies
for on-line traffic management, which benefits drivers, operators and
decision-makers. Secondly, they aim to promote other methods of mobility,
such as public transport, cycling and walking. Finally, European research
projects are trying to increase the use of railways for goods transport
in order to reduce road haulage. They are doing this by analysing the
obstacles to using railways, such as the need for more transhipment
Keeping traffic flowing in towns
How can we keep traffic in towns
moving? How can we convince the inhabitants to give up their private
car and in favour of public transport? The best strategies depend
on local situations and the groups of people concerned. The PRIVILEGE
project, which is coordinated by The MVA Consultancy (United Kingdom),
has therefore come up with a set of ideas based on the specific needs
of different categories of users.
In some circumstances, transport within
a town may be faster by waterway. This has been shown by the European
research project CATRIV, carried out in three major European cities:
Venice, Amsterdam and Lisbon. The analysis indicated that if boats and
quays are available along rivers and canals, they can offer an effective
alternative to traditional 'overland' routes.
The Traffic Message Channel (TMC) enables
drivers, wherever they may be, at any moment, to obtain the most precise
information (in their language) on the state of the traffic, with details
of traffic jams, roadworks, accidents, etc. This new technical aid will
be accessible through car radios on the FM waveband.