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Inland waterways: untapping their potential

In order to accelerate the shift to sustainable and smart mobility, multimodal transport needs a strong boost. In its recent strategies, including the European Green Deal and the EU’s strategy for sustainable and smart mobility, the Commission acknowledges the potential of inland waterways as enabler of the green transition, especially for last-mile connections in urban supply chains. To untap the potential of inland waterways, the current legislative framework will have to be modernized. Dr2 Consultants’ transport team analyzes the key trends for inland waterways and the impact on the sector.

1. Enhancing the robustness of hinterland connections

The Commission calls for an increase of transport activities via inland waterways by 25% by 2030 and 50% by 2050. However, climate-related problems are hampering these objectives. The sector is facing severe challenges related to drought and changing water levels across the Rhine, Danube and Elbe rivers. Because of these changing conditions, the hinterland corridors are facing capacity constraints as waterways are not deep enough or bridges are not high enough. Ultimately, this results in disrupted supply chains and rising transportation costs.

The Commission is expected to tackle climate-related issues in the inland waterways in its upcoming Climate Adaptation Strategy (late February). The upcoming NAIADES action plan, as well as the revision of the TEN-T Regulation (respectively scheduled for April and September 2021), will address infrastructural bottlenecks, and aim to upgrade the network’s capacity. In addition, the European Parliament will soon start its work on a resolution for futureproof inland waterways.

These legislative and non-legislative initiatives will dominate the policy agenda for the coming months and will shape the future of a robust transport network. Dr2 Consultants advises companies active in the inland waterways sector to engage with EU policymakers and share their views on these initiatives, for example by submitting their input to the TEN-T public consultation.

2. Boosting sustainable inland waterways fleets

As for many modes of transport, the current fleet of inland waterways vessels is still heavily dependent on fossil fuels. In order to accelerate the uptake of low-emission fuels in the sector, the Commission will consider binding targets on the deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure through the revision of the Alternative Infrastructure Fuels Directive this summer, and unlock funding opportunities through the Connecting Europe Facility, the Innovation Fund and EIB loans to stimulate green investments.

As each TEN-T corridor has different market characteristics and subsequent fuel demands, it remains to be seen whether the Commission will differentiate the targets between the corridors. In addition to the infrastructure component, the Commission will revise the current energy taxation rules in June 2021 to offer tax redundancies for sustainable alternatives or apply higher tax rates for polluting fuels. Last but not least, the Commission is expected to re-align the renewable energy framework with the increased climate ambitions by June 2021.

Dr2 Consultants recommends companies active in the inland waterways sector to closely follow these developments. The legislative framework for the uptake of low-emission fuels and subsequent funding opportunities are expected to provide clarity to investors, thereby facilitating investment decisions aimed at greening the sector.

3. Inland waterways as a solution for efficient multimodal city logistics

The Commission is expected to start engaging with major European cities to come up with sustainable urban mobility plans for 2030 in order to green urban supply chains. As urban areas are increasingly faced with challenges related to congestion and air pollution, inland waterways have the potential to create sustainable last-mile connections into cities and boost multimodal logistics. Through new rules on electronic transport documentation and traffic management, smart river management and the exchange of data across the supply chain should facilitate efficient multimodal city logistics.

Dr2 Consultants advises cities’ representatives and companies active in the inland waterways sector to explore the role of inland waterways in the urban mobility plans and integrate initiatives that have the potential to contribute to green urban supply chains.

What can Dr2 Consultants do for you?

Over the last years, Dr2 Consultants has built up a track record in advising a broad range of transport clients in navigating the EU ecosystem. Would you like to know more about how your organization could make the most out of the transformation of inland waterways transport? Feel free to reach out and discuss opportunities over a virtual coffee.

Visit our Transport Sector webpage.

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Smart mobility within cities: benefits and challenges

 

Smart mobility within cities: benefits and challenges

Cities have an important role to play in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and in reaching the goals of the European Green Deal, since cities are responsible for about 72% of all greenhouse gas emissions, a considerable part of which comes from urban transport. In its Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy, the European Commission calls on cities to be at the forefront of the transition towards more sustainability, and it sets the goal of achieving 100 European climate-neutral cities by 2030, with a big role for innovative digital solutions. Dr2 Consultants will take you through the key trends and challenges in the transition to smart and sustainable mobility in European cities.

Why does smart mobility in cities matter?

The idea behind the concept of smart mobility is to limit the use, or replace altogether, privately owned gas-powered vehicles by providing easily accessible, cheap, and sustainable alternatives, as well as using technology and digitalization, specifically Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), to collect, process and spread information in order to manage mobility more efficiently. The main objectives of smart mobility are to reduce traffic congestion and air and noise pollution, increase safety, improve transfer speed, and reduce transfer costs between different modes of transportation. Smart solutions for mobility are also recognized as essential to further decarbonize the transport sector and reach the ambitious emission reduction goals the EU institutions have set.

In practice, cities have a variety of options to implement smart mobility with solutions fitting for their residents. The concept of smart mobility promotes a wide range of alternative modes of transportation, from privately owned or shared bicycles to electric scooters, buses, metros, taxis, car-sharing, and ridesharing. For example, the city of Paris has bet on the development of a widespread bike-sharing system, with 15,000 electric or regular bicycles available to users all throughout the city.

Dr2 Consultants recognizes that digitization and especially data management are a big part of smart mobility, allowing to smoothen traffic as well as offering integrated solutions to users. For example, some cities collect data to provide real-time information allowing travelers to adapt their route to avoid congested areas. Other examples include connected traffic lights adjusting their timing to respond to real-time traffic or connected cars able to identify and direct the driver to the nearest available parking spot.

Heightened ambition

The European Commission’s recently published Strategy for Sustainable and Smart Mobility proposes several measures to make the transition to carbon-neutral smart cities a reality. The Strategy recognizes the need for clearer guidance in mobility management and urban planning, to adapt the shifts in transportation habits as well as provide the most adequate sustainable mobility options. In it, the European Commission identifies several concepts which can be added to cities’ policy toolboxes to decarbonize urban mobility in a smart way.

The strategy encourages the development of Mobility as a Service (MaaS) as an alternative to the use of private cars. Dr2 Consultants has identified MaaS as a very important area in the field of digitization of mobility, as it integrates different forms of transport into a unique digital service, easily accessible on-demand. It provides, within a single application and through a single payment channel, access to various forms of transport such as public transport, ride- or bike-sharing, and car rental. The city of Helsinki has for example made available to its inhabitants the Whim app, which allows to plan a trip and pay for all modes of public and private transportation existing within the city, from train to bus, to carshare and bikeshare.

Additionally, the Commission notes the increased use of shared and collaborative mobility services as alternative to private cars or packed public transport, such as shared cars, shared bikes, or ride-hailing, through intermediary platforms like Uber or Lime. Shared mobility and micro mobility devices currently remain highly unregulated and raise important safety issues.  To ensure the safety of such services and the level playing field between intermediaries, the Commission will put forward measures on on-demand passenger transport and ride-hailing platforms. Moreover, the Commission will issue guidelines to support the safe use of micro mobility devices such as e-bikes, scooters, or e-skateboards.

Finally, the growth of the e-commerce sector, even more so due to COVID-19, has seen an increase in deliveries. This raises the needs for multimodal logistics solutions, to avoid unnecessary delivery runs and congestion. According to the Commission, cities’ urban plans should accelerate the deployment of zero-emission solutions, such as cargo bikes or automated deliveries through drones. For cities crossed by rivers and other waterways, those should be used to relieve traffic congestion pressure from streets and roads. In Amsterdam, for example, the municipality uses electric boats to transport goods across the city, using the city’s wide network of canals. Delivery service provider DHL also uses the canals to facilitate deliveries, thanks to floating distribution centers.

Challenges in implementing smart mobility solutions within cities

Even though the advantages of the rollout of smart and sustainable mobility in cities are clear, there are still several challenges that need to be overcome to make the most out of the transformation of the mobility system.

Users

However, Dr2 Consultants recognizes that the biggest obstacle to the introduction of smart mobility solutions remains the users themselves. Complaints when municipalities decide to reduce speed limits or turn streets into pedestrian areas, are frequent. Especially when the implementation of smart mobility strategies requires significant changes to cities’ infrastructure, from bike lanes to electric charging points, which ask for heavy investments and public work, inhabitants seem less acceptant.

Security and Privacy

Smart mobility resting mostly on collection and use of data to feed Intelligent Transport Systems, raise the usual concern for security and privacy. Therefore, properly securing such systems is extremely important to avoid data breaches or misuse of data collected. Ensuring their security also contributes to increasing citizens’ trust in data-sharing, ensuring a widespread collection of data necessary to have the most up-to-date and relevant information, and in turn provide the most precise service.

Deployment of 5G networks

Additionally, the increased automation needed for smart mobility solutions relies on the widespread deployment of wireless mobile telecommunication systems, and especially newly introduced 5G systems, capable of supporting extremely high level of interconnections and uninterrupted data exchanges. The deployment of 5G networks is not equal within territories, and said networks also need to be properly secured. The Commission aims to tackle these challenges in its 5G Action Plan (published last year).

Accessibility

Increased digitalization of mobility also needs to consider accessibility, keeping user demand in mind when designing new urban plans and innovations, for elderly and disabled people. Not everyone knows, can or has the devices needed to use an app to plan their trip or book multimodal tickets. If accessibility is not at the core of urban planning, the solutions and innovations proposed risk not being widely deployed, limiting the potential benefits.

Dr2 Consultants’ Breakfast Meetings

Between 3 February and 17 March 2021, Dr2 Consultants organized a series of Breakfast Meetings on sustainable and smart mobility. During these lively one-on-ones several European and business stakeholders shared their vision on EU urban mobility challenges. Our guest speakers included Zuzana Púčiková (Head of EU Public Policy at Uber), MEP Tom Berendsen (NL, EPP; member of the EP’s Regional Development Committee and substitute in the Transport Committee), Isabelle Vandoorne (Deputy Head of Unit DG MOVE B.4 on Sustainable and Intelligent Transport) and Daan van der Tas (Lead Mobility as a Service & Shared Mobility at the Municipality of Amsterdam). You can read the main takeaways from our Breakfast Meetings here.

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European cities and regions: three reasons to get active at EU level

European Year of Rail: 2021 – boost to a modal shift

The EU institutions declared 2021 as the European Year of Rail but what will next year exactly entail and how can stakeholders take advantage of this initiative? In this blog post, Dr2 Consultants highlights how the rail sector will be put in the limelight as of January.

Every calendar year since 1983 (with the exception of 2016 and 2017) marks a new ‘European Year’ with a different theme during each iteration. The European Years span across a wide range of subjects such as development aid (2015), mobility of employees (2006) languages (2001), etc. 2021, has been declared the European Year of Rail.

The main goal of designating ‘European Years’ is to increase the visibility of certain industries and to promote a political momentum to bring around significant changes. The practical aspects mostly entail media campaigns and stakeholder events targeting both European citizens as well as businesses and other stakeholders. In some cases, the European Commission also uses this opportunity to put forward new legislation.

What the European Year of Rail will look like?

In March 2020, the European Commission published a proposal for a decision to designate 2021 as the European Year of Rail. Rail plays an important role in the Commission’s plans in decarbonizing the transport sector, as it is referred to in the European Green Deal as the most sustainable and therefore preferred mode of transport. Moreover, the rail sector has also taken a prominent place in the COVID-19 recovery phase as enabler of the green recovery.

The Commission’s proposal was quickly followed by inter-institutional consultations between the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the Council of the EU, where an agreement was reached on the final text on 12 November. The agreement includes a final budget for the year of €8 million, which is higher than previous proposals. While a comprehensive list of the activities is still yet to be published, following an advice taken up in the European Parliament’s Transport and Tourism Committee (TRAN) report on the proposal for decision, the Commission has been tasked with conducting two studies into concrete proposals to stimulate both freight as well as passenger related rail transport. Even though the final text of the decision is basically set in stone, it has to be approved by the European Parliament plenary (date still to be determined) and the meeting of the European Transport ministers in the Transport Council of 8 December.

Impact on the rail sector

Designating 2021 as the European Year of Rail is in line with the European Commission’s priorities on making transport more sustainable. Stakeholders from the rail sector have unique opportunities in shaping the policy agenda for the years to come, meaning that it will be imperative for them to seize this momentum as much as possible.

Several key initiatives for the transport and rail sector will be central in 2021. Firstly, actively providing input on the execution of the policy initiatives mentioned in the Strategy for Sustainable and Smart Mobility (planned to be published on 8 December 2020) will be crucial in shaping the rail sector for years to come. Secondly, in June 2021 the TEN-T Days will be organized by the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the EU, which will be an important moment to influence the TEN-T revision and future targeted rail infrastructure investments. Lastly, highlighting important European routes in the Action Plan on rail corridors (Q3 2021), which will aim to facilitate better connections between European capitals and the modal shift, will increase efficiency and connectivity on the trajectories most important to stakeholders actively lobbying on the file. Activities surrounding these proposals, ranging from formal consultations to stakeholder dialogue events and communication campaigns will be initiated on all different levels (European, national, regional and local).

In parallel to the policy initiatives, there will be other initiatives that highlight the momentum for rail. This year, a coalition of 25 Member States have set up the International Rail Passenger Platform, in which governments and the industry come together to make meaningful steps on the topics of infrastructure development and passenger services (i.e. ticketing). In addition, Germany has initiated the revival of the once popular TransEuropExpress, with launching a study on high-speed rail transport and night trains. The arts festival Europalia will dedicate its 2021 edition to the influence of railways on arts and their contribution to socio-economic change.

Opportunities for stakeholders in the European Year of Rail

As the focus of 2021 will be on setting the agenda for a modal shift to rail transport, European stakeholders can utilize the stage set by European institutions for rail-related issues to further elaborate and market their ideas and solutions. As the European Commission will be responsible for rolling out of communication and marketing campaigns, being aware of the latest events and actively engaging with the European institutions to be the first guest or participant of choice will be a crucial step to take to be more visible and effective. The industry will be able to fulfil a much needed role in the Commission’s campaigns, providing substance and content-driven input. Additionally, European businesses can initiate their own communication campaigns, which link to the existing media-related initiatives in the context of the European Year of Rail. This will greatly increase the effectiveness and reach of these campaigns, increasing their value and efficiency, and resulting in more value for money.

As mentioned earlier, the European Commission will be conducting two studies. Accompanying stakeholder consultations are expected in the first half of 2021, focused on the viability of a European label to promote goods transported by rail and the development of a rail connectivity index for rail passenger transport. The outcome of these studies will influence legislation for years to come, meaning that taking a proactive role is imperative. These consultation moments are also an opportunity to increase the network of Public Affairs professionals within the European Commission. It is therefore key to be aware of the latest consultations, even if they might not be public, to know who to engage with within the institutions and to effectively promote Public Affairs messages.

Moment to act

Dr2 Consultants has built solid expertise and network by providing support to transport stakeholders from rail and aviation to the maritime sector. We tailor our services, knowledge and expertise to support organizations in the most bespoke way and achieve tangible results. To successfully capitalize on the current political momentum and seize the opportunities provided by the European Year of Rail in 2021, please get in touch with us through our website.

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The future of the EU transport sector (2021-2024) – four trends

The future of the EU transport sector (2021-2024) – four trends

For the EU’s transport sector, the last several months were exceptionally challenging with passenger and freight transport being severely disrupted. Although the recovery of the sector is of vital importance for Europe’s economy, it also provides a momentum for the industry to act on the ambition of decarbonization and reaching climate neutrality by 2050. The upcoming EU Strategy for Sustainable and Smart Mobility (“EUSSSM”), scheduled to be published by the European Commission on 9 December, should pave the way towards sustainable recovery and provide clarity on the instruments to get there. The EUSSSM is the sequel to the 2011 White Paper on transport and will set out the broader policy priorities for the transport sector for the period of 2021-2024, including timelines for legislative and non-legislative proposals. A stakeholder consultation was closed on 23 September, attracting more than 600 stakeholder contributions. Based on our latest intelligence and the contributions of our clients to the consultation, Dr2 Consultants presents four emerging trends that will shape the future of the EU transport sector.

1. Prioritizing alternative fuels across all modes of transport

Alternative fuels are a key priority for the Commission to cut emissions and create jobs. The EU’s executive arm aims to accelerate the production of low-emission fuels and the deployment of sustainable vehicles and vessels. Following the publication of the Hydrogen Strategy this summer, the EUSSSM is expected to outline the broader uptake of green hydrogen in the transport sector. Although electrification seems to be the most viable option on the short term, hydrogen is dubbed as the energy source for the future of the EU transport sector.

In addition, the EUSSSM is expected to propose a range of policy instruments to decarbonize the EU transport sector and cut back CO2 emissions. A silver bullet to decarbonizing the transport sector is lacking, hence a mix of alternative fuels is required. The details of the fuel mix for the future will be worked out in both FuelEU proposals (FuelEU Maritime and ReFuelEU Aviation), that will aim to set out a pathway for low-emission fuels to be used in the maritime and aviation sectors. In parallel, the Commission is working on the revision of the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive (AFID), which will accelerate the development of the necessary infrastructure across Member States to stimulate the uptake of low emission fuels for all transport modes. The AFID is expected to be upgraded to a Regulation to ensure that Member States act upon the ambitions.

How can the EUSSSM and related initiatives stimulate the uptake of alternative fuels in the maritime sector? According to the Port of Rotterdam, the FuelEU initiative and the AFID revision should be handled in an integrated manner to ensure that demand and supply requirements remain aligned. At the same time, a goal-based approach is a prerequisite for success. According to the Port, there is no one-size-fits all approach: the legislative framework should be accompanied by a clear roadmap (to be developed by the Member States together with all stakeholders in the value chain) encompassing the range of fuels available for each segment, while meeting general criteria of sustainability, carbon intensity and affordability.

2. Safeguarding competition in the aviation sector

European airlines have been intensively exploring potential pathways towards reducing their carbon footprints (offsets or market-based measures). To limit the climate impact of air travel, it is essential that a basket of measures is applied simultaneously to allow European aviation to fully contribute to the climate effort while long-term solutions are implemented to reduce emissions. These measures include, i.e. greener aircraft technologies, more efficient operations and infrastructure, the development of and appropriate support for sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) and smart economic instruments.

The sustainable growth of aviation, which produces socio-economic benefits and contributes to achieving European environmental targets, remains one of the industry’s most important objectives. There is an urgency to make bold political decisions that will help European aviation meet these objectives for the benefit of passengers and businesses that rely on sustainable air connectivity. The EU should however refrain from imposing unilateral measures at EU level that would hamper European airlines’ ability to compete at global level.

3. A modal-neutral approach, facilitating sustainable transport

In recent months, Member States such as Austria and France have both announced that they would significantly cut short-haul flights if an alternative transport mode is available. Simultaneously, railway undertakings experience an increasing market demand for international rail passenger transport. According to the Dutch Railways (Nederlandse Spoorwegen – NS), the principal Dutch rail passenger operator, the EUSSSM should embrace the modal shift and stimulate the uptake of climate-friendly alternatives such as rail. In order to promote the development of an international passenger service market, the NS is of the view that the EU should strive towards the creation of a European high-speed network that is interoperable, linking European capitals and major cities and connecting urban nodes and airports.

The EUSSSM is expected to have a modal-neutral approach, but it will focus on facilitating the market demands and stimulating sustainable modes of transport. The Commission is expected to address issues related to establishing a level playing field between the modes of transport (i.e. fuel taxation, infrastructure charges), improving intermodal ticketing services and increasing the customer experience through digital solutions such as the Mobility as a Service (MaaS) concept.

4. Green funding to enhance the resilience of the EU transport industry

In order to stimulate the resilience of the European transport industry and to realize the ambitions that will be set out in the EUSSSM, investments are necessary. Following the landmark approval of the new EU budget and the Next Generation Recovery Fund by the European Council in July, the co-legislators are expected to conclude the budget negotiations by the end of this year. With a combined firepower of more than €1,800 trillion, EU Member States will have various funding instruments at their disposal to finance the recovery of the transport sector.

Member States are currently drawing up the national recovery plans in order to receive funds from the Recovery Fund. The draft plans should be shared with the Commission by late October. Project that have a cross-border impact, clear link to sustainability objectives and which can be executed in the next five years will get priority. According to the Commission, 30% of all funding through the Recovery Fund and in the new EU budget will be spent on sustainable projects.

Next steps

The EUSSSM is expected to be published on 9 December. In case you would like more information on the anticipated impact of the strategy on your organization or would like to know more about the future of the EU transport sector, do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

Visit our Transport Sector webpage.

Europe’s hydrogen revolution: the outlook for transport

On 8 July, the European Commission unveiled its long-anticipated Hydrogen Strategy, laying out a roadmap to make the EU the global leader in the hydrogen economy. The Hydrogen Strategy aims to foster the energy transition and act on the ambition of achieving climate-neutrality by 2050. The Commission aims to grow the share of hydrogen in the EU’s energy mix from the current 2% to 13-14% by 2050.

The momentum for hydrogen has grown in recent months. Market demand has significantly increased and the costs of renewable energy have decreased. Moreover, several Member States already published national hydrogen initiatives (e.g. Germany, France, the Netherlands). According to the Commission, a coordinated approach at EU level is necessary to scale up fast and streamline investment needs.

With the Hydrogen Strategy, the Commission charts the path towards ‘green’ hydrogen, based on renewable electricity (e.g. solar and wind energy). However, as green hydrogen is not yet cost-competitive against fossil-based hydrogen, the Commission acknowledges the potential of low-carbon hydrogen (e.g. Carbon Capture Storage) as a facilitator to scale up production and stimulate the market demand for hydrogen.

Hydrogen as enabler of emissions-free transport

The Hydrogen Strategy presents opportunities for the transport industry to act on the ambition of decarbonization and reducing CO2 emissions. Although electrification seems to be the most viable option on the short term, hydrogen is dubbed as the energy source for the future of transport. According to the Commission, the application of hydrogen in the transport industry is likely to develop through a gradual trajectory.

  • In the first phase (2020-2024), the objective is to produce up to 1 million tonnes of renewable hydrogen and to facilitate the take up of hydrogen consumption in commercial fleets (e.g. taxi’s) and specific parts of the railway network. Moreover, it could also be applied to heavy-duty transport, such as buses, lorries, coaches – currently responsible for about 6% of total EU CO2 emissions.
  • In the second phase (2025-2030), the objective is to make hydrogen an intrinsic part of an integrated energy system and to produce up to 10 million tonnes of renewable hydrogen. In this phase, green hydrogen should be cost-competitive with other forms of hydrogen production, but demand-boosting policies will be needed for the application of hydrogen in the railway sector and maritime transport (e.g. short-sea shipping and inland waterborne transport).
  • In the last phase towards maturity (2030-2050), renewable hydrogen and hydrogen-derived synthetic fuels could be applied to several hard-to-decarbonize modes of transport, such as aviation and deep-sea shipping, although the Commission acknowledges more research and innovation efforts are required to realize these ambitions.

In order to realize the hydrogen ecosystem and trajectory for transport, the Commission opts for an integrated value chain approach. In doing so, the Commission incorporates several aspects which are necessary to facilitate the hydrogen transition, ranging from infrastructure (e.g. the deployment of hydrogen refueling networks for the different modes of transport) to production techniques and market regulation (e.g. EU incentives to stimulate demand-side support policies).

The Commission is still exploring further renewable hydrogen appliances in the transport industry. This broader uptake of green hydrogen in the transport sector will be reflected in the Strategy for Sustainable and Smart Mobility, which is due for publication in the fourth quarter of 2020, and for which the public consultation has recently opened

Stimuli for the Hydrogen revolution

The Clean Hydrogen Alliance, a Commission-led coalition that brings together industry, governments and civil society, will identify a robust pipeline of projects to accelerate the upscaling of hydrogen production. The Alliance will be strongly anchored in the hydrogen value chain, covering green and low-carbon hydrogen from production via transmission to mobility, industry, energy and heating applications.

Financial instruments such as InvestEU, the Horizon partnership for clean hydrogen and the Cohesion Fund, which will expectedly be topped up by financial resources from the €750 billion Next Generation EU Recovery Fund, will help drive clean hydrogen past its tipping point.

Reinstating the European transport sector

Following weeks, during which containment measures rapidly succeeded each other, the focus of the EU institutions is now on shifting towards re-establishing transport services and connectivity in the EU. The relief measures of 8 May (more information below) and the package of guidelines of 13 May and recommendations are considered to be important milestones in the recovery of the sector.

Nonetheless, the recovery phase is far from crystallized. Important discussions are still taking place in various European Parliamentary committees and Council configurations, focusing amongst others on maintaining a level-playing field between the different modes of transport, safeguarding passenger rights (e.g. reimbursement of tickets) and aligning the recovery measures with the EU’s climate objectives.

The Commission is expected to present a new proposal on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for the period 2021-2027 on 20 May, although this is not a definitive date. The amount of the overall budget and the allocation of funds will provide more clarity about the financing of the recovery of the transport sector.

Herewith you can find an overview of recent contingency and recovery measures in the transport sector. For a detailed analysis of the developments below, please get in touch with us via our website.

Transport relief measures

The European Commission is working together with Member States on transport relief measures, covering all modes of transport, which the European Parliament is expected to approve during its extraordinary plenary session of 13-15 May. Among the measures are (1) an aviation relief package, (2) an omnibus legislative proposal for the extension of certificates and (driving) licenses, (3) the postponement of the transposition deadline of the Fourth Railway Package and (4) an amendment to the Port Services Regulation, which allows reduced infrastructure charges in the maritime sector.

Communication on lifting travel restrictions

On 13 May, the European Commission presented a package of guidelines and recommendations to advise Member States on gradually lifting travel restrictions and allow tourism businesses to reopen, after months of lockdown, while respecting necessary health precautions. The Commission’s communication consists of several documents, including:

  • A common approach to restoring free movement and lifting restrictions at EU internal borders in a gradual and coordinated way;
  • A framework to support the gradual re-establishment of transport whilst ensuring the safety of passenger and personnel;
  • A recommendation which aims to make travel vouchers an attractive alternative to cash reimbursements for consumers;
  • Criteria for restoring tourism activities safely and for developing health protocols for hospitality establishments.

These Commission guidelines are non-binding, as Member States can decide unilaterally on border controls and restrictions. However, the Commission aims to coordinate their efforts to achieve the freedom of movement as much as possible by facilitating cross-border coordination.

Commissioner Timmermans in TRAN Committee

On 11 May, an exchange of views was held in the European Parliament’s Committee on Transport and Tourism (TRAN) with Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans on the future of the transport sector in the framework of the European Green Deal and in the context of economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr. Timmermans stated during the discussions that:

  • Serious investments are needed to maintain a strong EU transport sector, including private investments, to save jobs and successfully achieve a zero-emission society by 2050;
  • Actors in the transport sector receiving financial or state aid from Member States, should be compelled to ‘give back to society’ in return for this aid, such as increasing efforts in the field of sustainability;
  • The European Commission will conduct an impact assessment in September 2020 to further analyze raising the emission reduction goal for 2030 from 50% to 55%.

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Commissioner Vălean in ENVI Committee

The European Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean exchanged views on 11 May with the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) Committee of the European Parliament on sustainable transport after the COVID-19 pandemic. The main takeaways of the discussions were:

  • The recovery phase will focus on making transport smarter and cleaner;
  • The European Green Deal objectives must be sustained, Europe must stay ambitious;
  • In the context of the debate on conditionality to receiving state aid, the Commission will introduce transparency requirements for large companies, to report how the aid helps to meet European ambitions on green and digital transitions;
  • On passenger rights, right of reimbursement is still a primary right. A voucher system could be introduced, but the passenger will always have the right to be reimbursed.

Read summary

The push for decarbonization of transport

Now that the President-elect of the new European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen unveiled her team of candidate-Commissioners and the subsequent portfolio distribution, it is time to determine its priorities in the field of transport. The most notable feature in the plans of the Commission is the push for decarbonization in the transport sector in order to comply with the climate objectives as set out in the EU’s 2050 Climate Strategy. So, what is exactly expected in the coming five years?

New structure, new responsibilities

Within the new structure of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans has been proposed as one of the top candidates of the Commission, responsible for realizing the European Green Deal, according to which Europe should be climate-neutral by 2050.

In his new role as Executive Vice-President, Timmermans will coordinate the work of multiple Commissioners, such as Transport, Energy and Agriculture, and their respective contributions towards the Green Deal. Moreover, Timmermans will have direct access to the Directorate-General of Climate Action, which will give him more influence in initiating and implementing legislations. Timmermans is expected to present his first outline of the European Green Deal in early December, in which more details are expected on how transport should contribute to the climate objectives. Frans Timmermans will be heard by the Parliamentary Committees on 8 October.

Decarbonization and the legislative framework

Following the publication of the new Commission’s policy priorities, von der Leyen has set out the priorities for each Commissioner-designate in a dedicated mission letter. According to von der Leyen, transport is at the intersection of the climate and digital transition. The priorities for the next Transport Commissioner should be to ensure sustainable, safe and affordable transport, in which emissions are further reduced. The following policy measures can be expected from the next Transport Commissioner:

  • Strong focus on completing the missing infrastructure links in the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T). This should help to smoothen connections in logistic chains and stimulate cross-border transport, i.e. by high-speed train connections;
  • Comprehensive review of existing legislation to align it with the EU’s climate ambitions. In concrete terms, this means breaking up the Energy Taxation Directive and subsequent voting procedures (currently by unanimity), as well as extending the EU’s Emission Trading System (ETS) to the maritime sector and reducing free allowances for airlines;
  • The new Transport Commissioner is asked to also stimulate global solutions besides the European routers, within the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO), to avoid hampering the competitiveness of the European transport sector;
  • For road transport policy proposals are expected on the alternative fuels- and EV-infrastructure, as well as new policy regarding road safety and autonomous vehicles.

Perspective of the Member States

The European Commission has ambitious objectives to decarbonize transport, but what about the commitment of the Member States? The EU’s 2050 climate strategy was the centerpiece of the Transport Council of 20 September. Despite an ambitious agenda of the new Commission, Member States seem to have diverging views on the proposed actions for the different transport sectors.

For the road, maritime and aviation sectors, decarbonization is a central theme for the European Commission as well as for the Ministers of Transport. However, there was no explicit majority support during the Transport Council meeting for an extension of the Emission Trading System to the maritime sector, even though the new Commission states this as one of their key ambitions. Secondly, although the new Commission aims to reduce ETS allowances for the aviation sector, the Transport Council meeting also highlighted the lack of support from the Member States for an extension of the current ETS regime for the aviation sector (ending the so-called “stop the clock” measure). Multiple Member States agreed that, for now, the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) are the first-choice platforms to reach decarbonization goals. Moreover, changing the voting rules within the Energy Taxation Directive to be able to pass taxation legislation without unanimity from the Member States, is not expected to get support in the Council since Member States prefer taxation measures to remain a national competence.

On rail transport, there is an overall consensus among Member States on the ‘switch to rail’ as a desirable modality shift. As of this moment, fragmentation of national systems and lack of cooperation on cross-border railway connections impede the rise of the train as a more convenient transport mode. The Member States expect investments needed for the development of rail infrastructure through the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF).

Balancing ambitions

When it comes down to politicized dossiers such as the Energy Taxation Directive and extending the EU’s Emissions Trading System, Member States are currently not on the same page as the European Commission. It remains to be seen how the Commission will pursue its agenda and get the necessary support in the Council. More details are expected during the hearings of the Commissioners-designate in the European Parliament.