Speech of Commissioner Vălean
TEN-T revision: first results of the stakeholder consultation
Dear Ms Chair, dear Members,
Thank you very much for your invitation. I am very happy to update you on the status of the TEN-T evaluation and the direction of our future revision of the Regulation. I had planned to do so around a month ago, at the TEN-T Days in Croatia – one of many events none of us could attend this spring!
In response to the huge transformations affecting transport, the European Commission launched the TEN-T evaluation process in spring 2019. Its inclusion in the European Green Deal, last December, reconfirmed the vital role of the TEN-T network in enabling an efficient and decarbonised transport system.
Status of the TEN-T evaluation
As you know, the Commission attaches huge importance to stakeholders’ views when evaluating EU legislation. And I am happy to say that stakeholders in the transport industry, European associations, public authorities, and the public at large were very interested to share their views. In total, more than 600 organisations and citizens contributed.
The second phase – the targeted stakeholder consultation – was launched at the beginning of this year. Key professional organisations are now sharing their vision on the overall functioning of the Regulation.
We have also asked around 1,500 experts for their input on issues such as urban nodes, infrastructure quality, digitalisation, new technologies, cooperation with third countries, and the functioning of the core network corridors.
While some aspects of the consultation are still ongoing, we have already collected a wealth of insights, which I am happy to share today.
We see that, for example, a vast majority of stakeholders see TEN-T strongly support this policy, because it:
- Has a strong EU dimension and with a high European added - value allowing individual Member States priorities to be scaled up into a European vision.
- Improves infrastructure quality throughout the EU, eliminating technical barriers and promoting seamless, safe and efficient cross-border mobility.
- Fosters change to ensure we keep pace with technological progress.
- Would enable huge benefits from closer integration between innovative and more traditional infrastructure, especially as we target decarbonisation.
Respondents also expressed strong support for the core network corridor approach, and called for reinforced EU instruments. This is particularly important in view of our critical deadline: full completion of the core network by 2030.
The revision is not done in isolation from national priorities. We are also assessing Member States’ progress towards completing TEN-T sections within their territory, and on time. We are looking at their national plans, programmes and budget procedures against the objectives enshrined in the TEN-T Regulation.
The TEN-T revision will be carried out alongside the revision of the Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Directive, and of the Rail Freight Corridor Regulation. It will build on the new Transport Strategy, foreseen for adoption later this year, and it will reflect the priorities contained in each.
Once our analysis of the evaluation is complete, we will publish a Commission Staff Working Document – this is foreseen for November 2020. In parallel, we will launch the Impact Assessment this summer, including a consultation on the policy options.
Direction of the revision
From the responses we have received to the consultation, we can already identify two cornerstones for the revision – planning and implementation, and enhanced infrastructure quality.
Planning and implementing the network
The design of the core network, strategically the most important part of the TEN-T, will remain as it is. We are not looking for a revolution and we have already made a lot of progress. However, certain projects are delayed and risk missing the 2030 completion target. BUT extending this deadline is not an option. Reducing ambition neither.
The only way forward is instead to strengthen the mandatory nature of Member States’ obligations, and to reinforce EU-level instruments and the governance of the network, which proves every day to be more important.
It is also time for an update of the network. As mentioned earlier the idea is not lose focus on the main objective for 2030. However, minor adjustments will certainly be needed, and accommodated – for example the inclusion of missing cross-border connections or enhanced connectivity for some peripheral regions.
Further enhancing the quality of infrastructure
New developments not foreseen back in 2013 call for upgrading of some features of the network.
We need therefore to integrate alternative fuel infrastructure as a mandatory TEN-T requirement, and take account of military mobility needs. We need to enable automation, and we must provide for future-oriented technological solutions, which we know are coming.
Digitalisation is clearly a must for tomorrow’s TEN-T. We have already made progress with ERTMS, SESAR and RIS. The COVID crisis has further showed us the urgent need to harness all the possibilities of digital solutions - the need for reduced procedures and paperless exchanges of documents, the urgency to make use of satellite technologies. The TEN-T revision will be THE opportunity to make TEN-T policy ready to the digital transition.
There are other ways to support sustainability. First, we can ensure charging and refuelling infrastructure for clean vehicles, and second, our TEN-T is in the unique position of integrating and interconnecting all transport modes, including smart components, and therefore optimising the system overall.
To give an example: there is no alternative to completing key infrastructure projects, such as Alpine tunnels or the Seine-Scheldt project. I have made this point previously. These are large projects, which also reflect the high level of ambition of the policy. However, we can complement traditional infrastructure with smaller-scale projects, easing access to terminals for example, or information flows across modes.
Urban nodes also play an important role – for a start, they are often the origin and final destination for TEN-T trips and they give shape to the network. While urban policy is always an area where local, regional authorities remain in the lead, we will also have pay attention to smooth connections, for example at railway stations, between TEN-T and local/regional transport.
In that sense, the comprehensive network fulfils an increasingly important role in ensuring connectivity for all regions. This is important from an economic perspective, but also for our citizens. Wherever they live in the EU, our citizens need and deserve seamless, safe and comfortable connections within the EU. We cannot leave rural areas and peripheral regions unattended contributing to the geography of the discontent. The TEN-T revision will always contribute to that.
We are also assessing how to ensure continued structural quality of vulnerable infrastructure such as bridges. We want to make sure that accidents such as that seen in Genova in 2018 will never happen again.
Some of the requirements and standards of the network will also have to be re-assessed. Not all of them reflect what a high-quality network should look like in 2030.
Also under the heading of an improving ‘quality’ to the network, we need to ensure adaptation to new risks. The COVID-19 crisis has showed us the importance of being ready to unforeseen events. It has also shown how critical transport is for our economies, how important it is for the supply chain and the Internal Market. In that context, Transport infrastructure and transport assets will need also to be seen in the broader context of the strategic autonomy of the EU and security policies. We simply need to have a plan in place if a crisis strikes again.
Finally, but not the least important - on the contrary - we need to re-think the human side, the passenger dimension. We need to look at infrastructure developments and planning integrating fully passengers, with particular attention of those with reduced mobility, creating the conditions for a seamless, affordable, and comfortable journey across the EU.
Dear Chair, dear Members,
I have shared with you a wide range of issues that we plan to improve when revising the TEN-T Regulation.
As with all ambitions, success depends on implementation, and the TEN-T implementation will require financial resources. I am very much looking forward to the EU Institutions’ support for a strong CEF and a strong recovery package, in which transport can play a key role and contribute to economic recovery while accelerating the completion of the TEN-T.
I, of course, welcome the European Parliament’s support for our work on the TEN-T revision and, in particular, the Own Initiative Report with Mr Gieseke as rapporteur.
My services and I remain fully committed to this project and you have my full support for advancing a strong CEF and TEN-T to serve a Union that remains connected internally and to the outside world.