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Slovenia hosts major road transport conference ‘TRA 2008’

Over 1300 participants from Europe and beyond came to Ljubljana, Slovenia from 21-24 April for the TRA 2008 conference. The event featured major presentations by high-level decision makers, leading-edge researchers and top industrial players. Strategic and thematic sessions highlighted ‘greener, safer and smarter’ road transport.

Janez Potočnik
Janez Potočnik

After welcoming participants to his hometown of Ljubljana, EU Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik said, "This event has one purpose, to strengthen our co-operation in road transport research, and the way to do that is to bring together all stakeholders, working together in a truly integrated approach."

Among the main challenges, he said, is breaking the link between freedom of movement and prosperity on the one hand, and increasing pollution, congestion and accidents on the other. "The EU's Lisbon strategy is about increasing competitiveness and prosperity, but in a sustainable way. Every one of you here today is a partner in finding a better way to road transport. This is your chance to exchange ideas and find solutions."

Also speaking at the conference opening, Slovenian Transport Minister Radovan Žerjav called it an honour to welcome representatives of the research, academic and industrial communities to his country. “This conference represents a unique opportunity," he said. "We are looking for new approaches and new technologies to meet both short term and longer term challenges."

All bases covered

TRA 2008 Plenary
TRA 2008 Plenary

The four-day TRA 2008 conference featured a full schedule of events, including:

Plenary sessions:

  • Transport and climate change
  • Green and smart transport
  • Traffic safety

Strategic sessions:

  • European trans-national collaboration
  • Urban mobility challenges
  • Interactive information systems
  • New Member State and Candidate Country issues
  • Cleaner road transport and advanced fuels
  • Innovative transport policy
  • International co-operation in emerging economies
  • Integrated transport safety
  • Road pricing and tolling

In addition, a number of parallel workshops and meetings took place in Ljubljana, timed to coincide with TRA 2008. Technical visits also highlighted important road transport initiatives in Slovenia.

ERTRAC continues key role

TRA 2008 covered all aspects of road transport, promoting the alignment of research around a shared Strategic Research Agenda (SRA), as defined by the European Road Transport Research Council (ERTRAC). Established in 2003, ERTRAC is one of the leading EU Technology Platforms. Its SRA lays the groundwork for future road research and has been a major guide in the formulation of the FP7 transport work programme.

Speaking at the opening TRA 2008 plenary session, ERTRAC Chairman Wolfgang Steiger said, "The mission of the TRA conference is the mission of ERTRAC. By bringing together all of the interested parties we intend to move quickly towards solving some of our most pressing road transport problems. These include improving safety and environmental performance and making road transport more efficient and competitive.

"Ours is one of the largest, most complex and multi-disciplinary sectors in Europe and indeed the world, and a provider of fundamental services in terms of mobility of goods and people, but we are also responsible for important levels of CO 2 emissions and a large number of deaths and injuries due to road accidents. It is crucial that we work together with the largest and possible number of contributors, from suppliers to manufacturers and from political leaders to road users."

Road sector for research and society

Also speaking at the opening session, CEDR Chairman Dimitrios Nikolaou said, “Transport is one of the main human activities around the world and it impacts on so many other areas. One of our major goals has to be to work together, to improve our co-operation. That's why we are here today supporting this important event, to promote the sharing of ideas and know-how, to consolidate our networks."

CEDR is the Conference of European Directors of Roads, one of the main sponsors of the TRA 2008 conference. Its stated goals include facilitation of exchange of experience and information and analysis and discussion of road-related issues, especially infrastructure, infrastructure management, traffic and transport, financing, legal and economic problems, safety, environment, and research in all of these areas.

EU Progress on display

TRA 2008 exhibition
TRA 2008 exhibition

At the TRA 2008 exhibition, conference participants got information on funding opportunities under the EU's ongoing Seventh Research Framework Programme (FP7) as well as other action plans and initiatives, and saw the work of a variety of collaborative European projects making major strides towards better road transport.

Luisa Prista, Head of the EU Research DG’s Surface Transport Unit said strong European Commission support for TRA 2008 reflects the importance of road transport within the larger European agenda. Under FP7, the European Commission is providing over €4 billion for transport research, aimed at stimulating the ongoing restructuring of the transport industry, including the integration of the supply chain and, in particular, small and medium-size enterprises. GALILEO, the European satellite radionavigation initiative, is also a key priority.

Compared to previous Framework Programmes, FP7 is more in line with the EU financial perspectives, covering the same time period, from 2007-2013. This longer cycle does not lock researchers into any particular approach as the work programme is reviewed regularly, reacting and remaining flexible to new needs and circumstances.

Closing on a high note

Speaking at the closing session, Deputy Director General of the Commission's Research DG Zoran Stančič called TRA 2008 a major success, saying it brought together researchers, academics and policy makers with a wide diversity of experience and achieving the goal of focussing the entire road transport community around common strategic goals for the benefit of industry and society.