Sustainable tourism: the European Union is committed to modernising the transport system

4 min reading time

Published on 15/12/21 - Updated on 17/03/22

propositions mobilité durable UE

Sustainable mobility is currently at the heart of all concerns and the European Union has decided to take up the subject by accepting various proposals aimed at making the European transport network greener and more intelligent.

As part of the objectives defined by the European Green Deal, the Commission has adopted four proposals to modernise the European transport network. A necessary transition to cleaner, greener and more efficient mobility. In order to achieve this ambition, four proposals have been studied and validated:

  • Improving connectivity and shifting more passengers and goods to rail and inland waterways
  • Supporting the deployment of charging points, alternative refuelling infrastructure and new digital technologies
  • Putting more emphasis on sustainable urban mobility
  • Facilitating the choice of different transport options in an efficient multimodal transport system

These solutions should enable the European transport sector to reduce its emissions by up to 90%. This is a significant figure given that transport is one of the most carbon-intensive sectors, so reduction, or even carbon neutrality, is becoming a necessity in today's world. 

Europe's green and digital transition will bring big changes to the ways we move around. Today's proposals set European mobility on track for a sustainable future: faster European rail connections with easy-to-find tickets and improved passenger rights support for cities to increase and improve public transport and infrastructure for walking and cycling, and making the best possible use of solutions for smart and efficient driving.

Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice President for the European Green Deal

The Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) is a project that aims to link 424 major cities through ports, airports and rail terminals. Once completed, it will significantly reduce travel time between these destinations. In order to fill in the missing links and modernise the entire network, the proposal suggests :

  • Allow the main railway lines to run at 160 km/h or more by 2040 to create competitive high-speed rail links within the Union but also ensure good navigation conditions on canals and rivers.
  • Create more large transhipment terminals, improve handling capacity in freight terminals, reduce waiting times at rail border crossings, allow longer trains to shift more goods to cleaner modes of transport and allow trucks to be transported by rail across the network. To meet operational needs, nine "European transport corridors" are to be created, integrating rail, road and inland waterways. 
  • Introduce a new intermediate deadline of 2040 to bring forward the completion of important parts of the network before the 2050 deadline that applies to the wider, comprehensive network. 
  • Encourage the 424 major cities to develop sustainable urban mobility plans to promote zero-emission mobility and to increase and improve public transport and walking and cycling infrastructure.

As one of the most sustainable and safe modes of transport, rail is placed at the heart of the European strategy to develop soft mobility. The TEN-T proposals are accompanied by an action plan on long-distance and cross-border rail transport, which sets out a roadmap for further action to help the EU meet its target of doubling high-speed rail traffic by 2030 and tripling it by 2050.

Although the number of rail passengers has increased in recent years, only 7% of rail kilometres travelled between 2001 and 2018 were for cross-border journeys. The action plan proposes concrete actions to encourage more Europeans to travel cross-border by train:

  • A multi-modal legislative proposal in 2022 to stimulate user-friendly multi-modal ticketing 
  • Enabling passengers to find the best tickets at the most attractive price and better supporting passengers facing disruptions as well as a commitment to study an EU-wide VAT exemption for train tickets 
  • The repeal of redundant national technical and operational rules 
  • Announcement of proposals for 2022 on timetable and capacity management, which will promote faster and more frequent cross-border rail services 
  • Guidelines for track access charging in 2023, which will facilitate rail operators' access to infrastructure, thereby increasing competition and allowing more attractive prices for passengers

The Commission believes that sustainable mobility requires smart mobility and therefore proposes to update the 2010 TSI Directive, adapting to the emergence of new road mobility options, mobility apps and connected and automated mobility. It proposes that crucial road, travel and traffic data should be made available in digital format to enable the faster deployment of new intelligent services. This proposal will also ensure that essential safety-related services are made available to drivers along the TEN-T network.

The new framework for urban mobility will benefit transport users and all those around them by addressing current mobility issues such as congestion, emissions and noise. To improve this urban mobility, the focus will be on public transport, walking and cycling. The proposal also prioritises zero-emission solutions for urban fleets, the last mile of urban deliveries, the construction and upgrading of multimodal hubs, and new digital solutions and services. The proposal also defines funding options for local and regional authorities to implement these priorities.

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