Modern economies cannot generate wealth and employment without highly efficient transport networks. This is particularly true in Europe where, for goods and people to circulate quickly and easily between Member States,we must build the missing links and remove the bottlenecks in our transport infrastructure. The trans-European transport network is a key element in the relaunched Lisbon strategy for competitiveness and employment in Europe for that reason alone: to unblock major transport routes and ensure sustainable transport, including through major technological projects.
The trans-European networks policy is not new. In fact, it has existed since the Maastricht Treaty was signed in the 1990s. After 10 years, however, it is clear that the results fall short of the original ambitions. In 2003, barely one third of the network had been built. And only three of the 14 specific projects endorsed by the European Council at Essen in 1994 had been completed.
In view of the growth in traffic between Member States, expected to double by 2020, the investment required to complete and modernise a true trans-European network in the enlarged EU amounts to some EUR 600 billion. Given the scale of this investment, it is essential for the EU to prioritise these projects better, concentrating on major projects to complete those implemented at national level, which naturally require coordination at European level.
This is exactly what the EU did last year, identifying a series of 30 transnational axes, on the basis of proposals from the Member States, according to their European added value and their contribution to the sustainable development of transport and the integration of the new Member States.
The EU also proposed a new programme to launch ‘motorways of the sea’ which could not only provide better connections for peripheral countries, but most importantly could be a viable and less costly alternative to new infrastructure on saturated overland corridors. For example, maritime connections between Spain, France and Italy would reduce traffic travelling across the Alps and the Pyrenees.
The trans-European network also includes major technological projects for industry. Galileo, the European system for satellite radio-navigation, is a priority project offering extremely accurate navigation and positioning facilities, such as for route planning. It will also transform freight carriage by supplying continuous information on the movements of goods. Another major industrial project developed by Europe, the European rail traffic management system (ERTMS), will be deployed on key parts of the network.
However, unlike other sectors, transport infrastructures depend on public funding, essentially from national budgets. But the level of investment in transport infrastructure has nevertheless fallen in most Member States, now amounting to less than 1 % of GDP. As the major TEN-T projects are only truly viable if they are designed, financed and implemented in a European framework, it is unlikely that Member States, acting individually, could implement the Union’s major priority projects, the cost of which amounts to EUR 225 billion.
The Commission has put forward a number of solutions. In the financial perspective for 2007–13, the Commission has proposed a significant increase in the TEN-T budget so that these funds, together with the Structural and Cohesion Funds, could be used as leverage for national public funding. The Commission also proposed that a larger share of this budget be devoted to cross-border sections.
Charging for infrastructure use also plays a role in financing the network. The ongoing revision of the so-called ‘Eurovignette directive’, providing a framework for tolls to be paid by trucks, falls within this scope. Additional tolls to use roads in mountainous zones could be used to co-finance alternative infrastructure like the Brenner rail tunnel.
Furthermore, new methods must be found to attract private investment to large-scale public infrastructure projects. The Commission has devised a new system, which should be operational by 2007, to grant loan guarantees which will make public–private partnerships (PPPs) more attractive to private companies.
I am doing everything to ensure that these proposals are adopted quickly. Decisions on the financing of these projects, especially those relating to the financial perspective, are needed urgently.
Mobilising the various funds and key stakeholders in the different Member States not only necessitates a new approach with regard to financing, but also a new method of coordinating both political and technical aspects of the network at EU level. When several Member States are involved, the coordination of major infrastructure projects presents major difficulties. The potential profits from investments on an axis are contingent on the completion of the cross-border sections. To promote a coherent framework for investment, the Commission, at my request, appointed six prominent figures as European coordinators on 20 July. They will also act as an advisory board for project financing.
Furthermore, I am convinced that the networks presented in this brochure cannot stop at the EU’s borders. That is why I have appointed my predecessor, Loyola de Palacio, to chair a new high-level group on extensions towards neighbouring countries to the south and east of the EU.
This brochure presents each major axis and priority project. It is intended to illustrate the scale and the objectives of the networks. I am sure that on reading this brochure, you will share our ambition for greater mobility throughout the EU. Space planning is no minor issue. It is a major problem both for Europe’s competitive position and for the quality of life of Europeans. This is what motivates me to meet the challenge of achieving the trans-European transport network.
Vice-President of the European Commission,
with Responsibility for Transport