|The International Transport Union (IRU), the voice of almost one million European passenger and goods road transport operators, has welcomed the Package for Efficient and Green Mobility, announced by the European Commission this week.
However, the industry group has warned that the proposal will not create the level playing field between sustainable modes of transport that is critical to support an effective transition to cleaner and greener transport in the European Union.
The proposal to exempt VAT on passenger tickets is a good approach, but this must be done in a non-discriminatory way across all sustainable passenger transport modes. Long distance and intercity coaches are one of the most sustainable and affordable means of collective passenger transport and offer an excellent green alternative to private cars.
Long-distance buses have been ranked the best-performing of all modes of travel in terms of CO₂ emissions and general environmental impact per passenger-km under a well-to-wheel approach, including by the German Environment Agency.
“We share the goals set out in the package for efficient and green mobility, but we must see proper modal cooperation where all sustainable modes of transport are treated equally and fairly. Without this, we are putting Europe’s green transport transition at risk,” said Raluca Marian, IRU’s Director for EU Advocacy.
“The package also needs more precision, especially when it comes to alternative fuel infrastructure in urban nodes, safe and secure parking areas by 2050, data sharing conditions and rules, access to commercial vehicles in low or zero emission zones, and the role of cities in shifting traveller`s behaviour towards collective passenger mobility,” she added.
TEN-T Network: Expansion welcome, but far from sufficient
Cities are the starting and ending point for transport of goods and people as well as being the site for many intermodal connections, such as with ports and airports.
Unfortunately, the number of urban nodes currently identified under the TEN-T proposal is still very small. This would implicitly decrease the level of ambition under another recent European Commission proposal on alternative fuel infrastructure (AFIR), which identifies urban nodes as key targets for this type of infrastructure.
Although the TEN-T proposal increases the number of nodes to 465, it is far from sufficient to make a significant impact to the alternative fuel infrastructure needed by vehicles entering or crossing EU cities.
IRU calls for a more ambitious approach, where the number of urban nodes are increased and the locations of infrastructure serving commercial vehicles are more precisely identified with reference to modal and multimodal goods and logistics terminals, logistics hubs, the proximity of major loading and unloading points, coach parking areas and terminals.
IRU is surprised by the low level of ambition under another critical point for the industry, namely safe and secure parking areas (SSTPAs). The initiative to improve the EU’s SSTPA network is appreciated, but the implementation time line set out in the TEN-T regulation proposal – by 31 December 2050 – is insufficient and will not bring the immediate improvements in driver conditions that are urgently needed in the road transport sector.
Alignment is also needed between the AFIR and the TEN-T Regulation to ensure that binding targets are put in place on the minimum number of HDV recharging stations at each SSTPA by December 2030.
“The revision of the TEN-T regulation is a welcome move to build a reliable, seamless and high quality trans-European transport network. However, the Commission’s proposal lacks ambition due to relaxed targets such as the 2050 implementation deadline and does not take into account the sense of urgency to improve working conditions for drivers, security and safety of passengers and goods,” said Raluca Marian.
Urban vehicle access restrictions (UVARs): Fragmented approach continues
The European Commission’s proposed Communication on the Urban Mobility Framework calls on Member States to implement a national long term Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan support programme.
European cities are therefore likely to introduce vehicle access regulations that create barriers to cross-border and domestic transport services by only incentivising zero-emission vehicles, ignoring the fact that there are no alternative technologies available today for all market segments of the commercial road transport industry. This could disturb supply chains, increase costs for operators and make the transport of people and goods more expensive for EU citizens living in urban areas.
This ongoing fragmented approach in UVAR implementation will not only have an impact on small and medium enterprises, which constitute the bulk of affected firms, but also on the competitiveness of the EU’s economy as a whole.
“We share the European Commission’s goals on more sustainable urban logistics and mobility in the proposed Urban Mobility Framework, but commercial road transport operators need stable and predictable policy, with legal and operational certainty, in order to invest in new solutions,” said Raluca Marian.
“To bring legal certainty, IRU supports the creation of a legally binding framework on a fair process to set new urban vehicle access regulations, where restrictions to commercial traffic will no longer be imposed without providing solutions and alternatives,” she added.