The European Investment Bank welcomes the European Commission's White Paper on a common European transport policy, and supports the Commission's analysis of the severe challenges facing European transport. In particular, the Bank welcomes the Commission's call for swift and assertive action to ensure that the European Union's transport system can respond to the demands of European integration and enlargement, while taking into account environmental constraints.
The White Paper reinforces the conclusions of the EIB's own conference on Trans-European Networks (TENs), held in Strasbourg in February this year, that highlighted the need for efficient investment in transport, with a special focus on the adoption of the most environmentally friendly modes and the development of intelligent transport systems to extend the potential of existing links.
Transport infrastructure must be improved to meet growing demand, particularly for inter-urban links. Investment in Europe in increasingly costly transport infrastructure has been declining in recent years, and only 20% of the TENs network, approved in 1996, has so far been built. Despite this decline, the EIB has continued to maintain a high level of investment in the sector, committing some EUR 73 billion over the past five years for transport projects. This includes financing packages for 11 out of the 14 priority TENs projects. The Bank has given priority to supporting the more environmentally friendly modes, concentrating 37% of its loans into long-distance rail links and urban rail transport systems. To ensure that new investment is accompanied by an improvement in the performance of the existing transport system, the EIB is also supporting the development of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) through its "i2i" (Innovation 2000 Initiative) facility.
However, the efficiency, sustainability and cohesion goals pursued by the EU cannot be achieved exclusively through investment. The EIB supports the White Paper's guidelines encouraging Member States to harmonise the operation of the common transport system across Europe, to improve the efficiency and quality of service of the various transport modes (especially in the case of railways and short-sea shipping), and to reduce the burden of traffic accidents. At the same time, improvements are required in the legal and administrative framework for setting up Public Private Partnerships (PPPs). The EIB will co-operate closely with the European Commission, sharing its long experience in working with PPPs.
The EIB will respond to the White Paper's challenges, and work with the Commission to implement European Union transport policies, in particular those that promote environmentally friendly modes and encourage private participation in transport infrastructure. At the same time, the EIB will continue to maintain the momentum of its financing for the development and modernisation of Europe's transport infrastructure.