EU ministers plan 500 bln euro project to link railroads in Europe

March 23, 2012, Friday/ 13:42:00

European transport ministers on Thursday drew up a map of rapid road and rail links across the continent, from Sweden to Italy and Portugal to Paris, that would cost 500 billion euro ($660 billion) by 2020 if fully implemented. 

Now that transport ministers have agreed a broad plan for a core transport network with a 2030 deadline, it will be further debated by the European Parliament and governments over the coming months. "We have drawn a new map for Europe for the transport sector," Henrik Dam Kristensen, transport minister for Denmark, holder of the rotating EU presidency, told reporters at the end of a council meeting in Brussels.

The network includes 10 major transport corridors, connecting 86 main European ports, 37 airports and upgrading 15,000 km of railway to high speed, as well as 35 cross-border projects to reduce bottlenecks. Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas said he understood member states' concerns about the cost in the current financial climate, but spending too little could be a false economy. The 500 billion euros needed by 2020 would be a mixture of Commission, member state government, European Investment Bank and private funding. Kallas described attempts by member states to slice more and more off the proposals as "salami tactics". "Being too conservative might have negative effects and generate additional costs," he said. "This represents a fundamental shift in European transport policy."

Green campaigners and members of the European Parliament have been cautious in their response, saying Thursday's vague words needed to be matched with concrete implementation plans and aligned with other policy measures to reduce greenhouse gases from the transport sector. "If the EU wants to deliver on its transport emissions reduction targets, it needs to join up its policies, not just join up points on a map," Nina Renshaw, deputy director at transport and environment campaigners T&E, said.

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