White Paper plugs electric cars but, bizarrely, wants to cut congestion, too. ETRA says cycling isn't given big enough role.

EU transport chief releases radical plan to cull petrolheads

For some to be filed in the ‘straight banana’ category of EU proposals, the European Union’s White Paper on transport is definitely radical. Siim Kallas, the EU Commissioner for Transport, unveiled the White Paper yesterday, to a chorus of disapproval from the usual suspects.

Many in Britain – especially the petrolheads – will consider the ideas in ‘Transport 2050’ to be loopy: the radical document from the EU wants motorists to pay for using roads and to pay for pollution, too. It also calls for zero road deaths and the complete phasing out of petrol cars by 2050 (they should be electric, instead).

Cycling gets a few mentions in the White Paper, but not enough says ETRA, the European Two-wheel Retailers’ Association.

"Given that a quarter of CO2 emissions from transport occur in cities, it is unfortunate that the European Commission doesn’t give a bigger role to existing low-carbon mobility options such as traditional and electric bicycles and electric scooters, mopeds and motorcycles,” said a statement from ETRA.

"Promoting soft modes of transport such as walking and cycling and clean motorised transport…can help achieve the objective of phasing out conventionally-fuelled cars in cities by 2050, since these do not require the roll-out of new infrastructure."

The White Paper wants petrol cars replaced by electric cars. This would reduce emissions but do nothing for congestion.

“Unlike electric cars, two-wheelers offer a solution for sustainable transport in cities which is available immediately, and brings with it a number of benefits for road safety, public health, green employment and social cohesion," said ETRA secretary Annick Roetynck. 

Announcing the White Paper. Siim Kallas said the EU wants "transport for people, less congestion, fewer emissions, more employment and more growth."

‘Transport 2050’ calls for: cities to completely phase out petrol cars in favour of e-cars; and shifting to rail or water 50 percent of all passenger and freight road transport currently making intercity journeys of more than 300km. ‘Last kilometre’ deliveries should be carried out by electric vehicles.

The EU plans to extend and coordinate "user pays" and "polluter pays" principles to finance transport infrastructure.

Predictably, the UK Government has quickly poured scorn on the White Paper. Appearing not to have read the White Paper (which calls for electric cars in city centres, not bans on all cars) LibDem Transport minister Norman Baker said:

"We will not be banning cars from city centres any more than we will be having rectangular bananas."

He might have been getting his information from The Telegraph, which said – wrongly – the EU wanted to ban all cars from cities by 2050, not just e-cars.

The Telegraph’s Bruno Waterfield knee-jerked: "Siim Kallas, the EU transport commission, insisted that Brussels directives and new taxation of fuel would be used to force people out of their cars and onto "alternative" means of transport."

Waterfield then went to organisations the Association of British Drivers and UK Independence Party who gave him some predictably batty anti-EU quotes.

The cost of implementing the proposals in ‘Transport 2050’ would be 1.5 trillion euros.

Of this, Kallas said 13 billion euros of annual EU transport infrastructure spending should go on environmentally "sustainable projects." His White Paper contains no EU-wide cash figure for cycling promotion or infrastructure.


The White Paper highlights include:

"Oil will become scarcer in future decades, sourced increasingly from uncertain supplies…If we do not address this oil dependence, people’s ability to travel – and our economic security – could be severely impacted with dire consequences on inflation, trade balance and the overall competitiveness of the EU economy."


"Infrastructure shapes mobility. No major change in transport will be possible without the support of an adequate network and more intelligence in using it. Overall, transport infrastructure investments have a positive impact on economic growth, create wealth and jobs, and enhance trade, geographical accessibility and the mobility of people. It has to be planned in a way that maximises positive impact on economic growth and minimises negative impact on the environment."


"Congestion is a major concern, in particular on the roads and in the sky, and compromises accessibility. Congestion costs will increase by about 50 percent by 2050."


"Curbing mobility is not an option."


"Transport users pay for the full costs of transport in exchange for less congestion, more information, better service and more safety.


"In cities, switching to cleaner transport is facilitated by the lower requirements for vehicle range and higher population density. Public transport choices are more widely available, as well as the option of walking and cycling."


"The gradual phasing out of ‘conventionally-fuelled’ vehicles from the urban environment is a major contribution to significant reduction of oil dependence, greenhouse gas emissions and local air and noise pollution. 


"Facilitating walking and cycling should become an integral part of urban mobility and infrastructure design."


"Move towards full application of ‘user pays’ and ‘polluter pays’ principles and private sector engagement to eliminate distortions, including harmful subsidies, generate revenues and ensure financing for future transport investments."


"Price signals play a crucial role in many decisions that have long-lasting effects on the transport system. Transport charges and taxes must be restructured in the direction of wider application of the ‘polluter-pays’ and ‘user-pays’ principle. They should underpin transport’s role in promoting European competitiveness and cohesion objectives, while the overall burden for the sector should reflect the total costs of transport including infrastructure and external costs. Wider socioeconomic benefits and positive externalities justify some level of public funding, but in the future, transport users are likely to pay for a higher proportion of the costs than today."


"For passenger cars, road charges are increasingly considered as an alternative way to generate revenue and influence traffic and travel behaviour. The Commission will develop guidelines for the application of internalisation charges to all vehicles and for all main externalities. The long-term goal is to apply user charges to all vehicles and on the whole network to reflect at least the maintenance cost of infrastructure, congestion, air and noise pollution.


"Include eco-driving requirements in the future revisions of the driving licence directive and take steps to accelerate the deployment of ITS applications in support of eco-driving."


"Examine approaches to limit the maximum speed of light commercial road vehicles, in order to decrease energy consumption, to enhance road safety and to ensure a level playing field."

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