EU Proposes Banning Cars from Cities. Automakers Protest

The EU wants to make vast changes in the infrastructure by taxing non-favored forms of transportation so that automobile and truck use are actively discouraged and rail and water shipping become the most efficient choices.

The European Commission today endorsed 40 initiatives that it claims will increase mobility, dramatically reduce Europe’s dependence on imported oil and cut carbon emissions from transportation by 60% by 2050. It also requires the investment of €1.5 trillion or $2.1 trillion across the EU.

It is a far-reaching proposal, called Transport 2050, governing all 27 EU member countries, which in the views of various self interest groups is far too radical. Transport 2050 faces fierce political fights as the necessary legislation and regulations involved attempt to move forward.

Automakers were quick to protest the banning of “conventionally-fueled” cars in European cities, and a 50% shift of medium distance intercity passenger and freight movements from road to rail and waterborne transport. Combined with the mandatory use of large amounts of “sustainable low carbon fuels” in aviation, the EU says that there will be at least a 40% decrease in shipping emissions.

In total a 60% cut in transportation emissions by the middle of the century is claimed under the policy. At the same time, the EU would extend and coordinate “user pays” and “polluter pays” principles to finance the enormous changes to its transport infrastructure.

“We can break the transport system’s dependence on oil without sacrificing its efficiency and compromising mobility,” said EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas. “It can be win-win.”

Not so claims the auto industry. “The Commission, unfortunately, signals a policy u-turn,” said Ivan Hodac, Secretary General of the automobile industry’s trade association ACEA. “In particular, the White Paper states that road freight transport in excess of 300 km should be shifted to rail or waterborne transport (30% by 2030, more than 50% by 2050)—regardless of the actual factors steering the choice of transport mode; disregarding the eminent role of improving efficiency; without questioning the suitability and ability of the other modes to take on such task; and lacking foundation with respect to the environmental benefit. A similarly one-legged position is taken for, among others, medium-distance passenger transport and inner-city access.”

The proposed changes threatening to the auto industry include interconnecting by 2020 Europe’s passenger and freight transport information, management and payment systems. By 2050, all major airport hubs would have high-speed connections to the rail network. All core seaports would be connected to the rail freight network and, where possible, to inland waterways.

At the heart of the policy debate is a theory that describes an ideal transport system where systematically the most efficient mode of transportation is used for each particular task and people easily shift between modes. To accomplish this the EU wants to make vast changes in the infrastructure by taxing non-favored forms of transport so that automobile and truck use are actively discouraged and rail and water shipping become the most efficient choices.

“A simple call for a decrease in the use of motor vehicles will not provide the easy solution it appears to be, because there will not be less demand for the flexible solutions that road transport provides in contrast to other modes,” Hodac. “Road transport plays a capital role and cannot be confronted with arbitrary measures.”

About Ken Zino

Ken Zino is an auto industry veteran with global experience in print and electronic media. He has auto testing, marketing, public relations and communications expertise garnered while working in Asia, Europe and the U.S.
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