Towards a Better European Transport System

Towards a Better European Transport System


Richard Granger, Technology Partners Foundation, Tomasz Kosmider, Technology Partners Foundation


Europe is not making the most of its transport investments, mainly due to poor policy coordination. A more connected approach, which sees European transport as one system and optimises it as such, will unlock the full potential of existing programmes


First class transport is fundamental for a healthy society and a thriving economy. By providing a high degree of mobility for ideas, people and goods, it enables innovation to flourish, businesses to serve wide markets and citizens to travel easily for work and for pleasure. This leads to job creation; regional, national and EU economic development; better social cohesion and a better quality of life. This is why transport is one of the seven ‘Grand Challenges’ on which Europe’s Horizon 2020 research programme will focus in 2014-2020.

Much is being done to improve transport in Europe in specific topics: in technology (e.g. the CleanSky programme in aviation and the new Shift2Rail programme in rail), in networks (e.g. the TEN-T programme and the growth of high speed rail) and in financing (e.g. the Connecting Europe facility). Yet Europe is failing to capture the full benefits of these investments. As the European Commission’s 2011 Transport White Paper recognises, today’s European transport system remains fragmented, inefficient and inadequate. Analysis of the root causes of this poor performance shows that, while technology barriers are significant, policy issues dominate. Examples include poor policy coordination between States, regions and cities; undue focus of EU and national polices on individual transport sectors rather than on the system as a whole; and inappropriate standards and regulation.

We examine the arguments for a more connected approach, which sees European transport as one system and optimises it as such. This contrasts with the present situation of many fragments, individually good but poorly related. This connected approach will lead to better overall transport provision and better results for the resources invested. However, transport involves many stakeholders, who tend to focus on their own specific modes and issues. Truly effective transport will only develop if all stakeholders work together. We consider new approaches, such as a European Innovation Partnership, to bring together all relevant actors at EU, national and regional levels to tackle the problems described above. These would, for example: (i) bring a stronger systems-level perspective to research and development efforts; (ii) coordinate investments in demonstrators and pilots; (iii) identify and fast-track changes necessary in regulations and standards; and (iv) mobilise ‘demand’, in particular through better coordinated public procurement. Such an approach will build on existing initiatives, at modal, sectoral and administrative levels, and unlock the full value creation potential of existing investment programmes.


Association for European Transport