THE European Commission has adopted four proposals to modernise the European Union’s (EU) transport system as it sets about formulating plans to deliver planned 90% reductions in transport emissions.

The proposals aim to increase connectivity and shift more passengers and freight to rail and inland waterways, and also place a stronger focus on sustainable urban mobility while making it easier to choose different transport options in an efficient multimodal transport system.

The proposals include an action plan to boost long-distance and cross-border passenger rail services, a revision of the TEN-T Regulation, a review of Intelligent Transport Systems, and an update to the European Urban Mobility Framework

“Today we are proposing higher standards along the TEN-T network, boosting high-speed rail and embedding multimodality, and a new north-south Corridor in Eastern Europe,” says transport commissioner, Ms Adina Vălean. “With our Intelligent Transport Systems Directive we are embracing digital technologies and data-sharing. We want to make travel in the EU more efficient and safer for drivers, passengers and businesses alike. The cities linked by EU infrastructure are our economic powerhouses, but they must also be lean cities - for inhabitants and commuters. That is why we are recommending a dedicated framework for sustainable urban mobility - to guide the faster transition to safe, accessible, inclusive, smart and zero-emission urban mobility.”

TEN-T network

To address the missing links and modernise the TEN-T network, the proposal requires that the major TEN-T passenger rail lines allow trains to travel at least 160km/h by 2040, creating competitive high-speed railway connections.

The proposal calls for more transhipment terminals, improved handling capacity at freight terminals, reduced waiting times at rail border crossings, longer trains to shift more freight onto cleaner transport modes, and the option for lorries to be transported by train network-wide. It also creates nine “European Transport Corridors” that integrate rail, road, and waterways.

The proposal sets a new intermediary deadline of 2040 to advance the completion of major parts of the network ahead of the 2050 deadline that applies to the wider, comprehensive network. There are calls for new high-speed rail connections, including between Porto and Vigo, and Budapest and Bucharest, to be completed for 2040.

All 424 major cities along the TEN-T network must also develop Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans to promote zero-emission mobility and to increase and improve public transport and infrastructure for walking and cycling.

Long-distance and cross-border rail traffic

The TEN-T proposal is accompanied by an action plan on long-distance and cross-border rail that lays out a roadmap with further actions to help the EU meet its target of doubling high-speed rail traffic by 2030, and tripling it by 2050.

The actions include:

  • a multimodal legislative proposal in 2022 to boost user-friendly multimodal ticketing
  • allowing passengers to find the best tickets at the most attractive price and better supporting passengers faced with disruption, and a commitment to investigate an EU-wide VAT exemption for train tickets
  • the repeal of redundant national technical and operational rules
  • an announcement of proposals for 2022 on timetabling and capacity management, which will boost quicker and more frequent cross-border rail services, and
  • guidelines for track access pricing in 2023 that will ease rail operators’ access to infrastructure, increasing competition and allowing for more attractive ticket prices for passengers.

By 2030, the commission will support the launch of at least 15 cross-border pilot rail projects to test the action plan’s approach, ahead of the entry into force of the new TEN-T requirements.

Urban mobility

The new Urban Mobility Framework addresses mobility challenges stemming from intense economic activity such as congestion, emissions, and noise, setting out European guidance on how cities can cut emissions and improve mobility, including via sustainable urban mobility plans. The main focus will be on public transport, walking and cycling. The proposal also prioritises zero-emission solutions for urban fleets, including taxis and ride-hailing services, the last mile of urban deliveries, and the construction and modernisation of multimodal hubs, as well as new digital solutions and services. The proposal maps out the funding options for local and regional authorities to implement these priorities. In 2022, the commission will propose a recommendation to EU member states for the development of national plans to assist cities in developing their mobility plans.

The proposals are the second package set out by the commission, following the publication of the EC’s Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy in December 2020.