Is Europe's transport policy heading in the wrong direction?

20-12-2003

Five Infrastructure projects in Austria will also receive EU funds. They include the Brenner road tunnel linking Italy and Austria, rail and water connections with the Slovak capital Bratislava and a motorway between Vienna and Sopron in Hungary. But is all of this well thought through? Austrian transport expert Hermann Knoflacher from the technical university says by developing more motorways the EU is heading in the wrong direction.

Photo: European CommissionPhoto: European Commission "No they are not necessary. This is the old mistake of traditional transport philosophy and planning - trying to solve problems by providing more road space. But this only ends with more congestion, more air pollution and degradation of the local economies."

However we do know the Iron curtain was there for decades and that the connections between Austria and the eastern neighbours were very poor. We also know that the Slovaks have gone to the trouble of building a highway that comes right up to the Austrian border. There are also good connections in Hungary. So can Austria remain a sort of blank spot in terms of quality of connections?

"First of all Austria is not a blank spot. Austria has a lot of connections and an entire existing road network already. Secondly no one in Austria wants to have more cars than we have already. The same is happening in the accession countries too - cities in these countries are already totally filled with cars."

There are also rail projects in that package, as well as water connections with Bratislava. You would welcome that?

"This is okay, but there are not enough rail projects. There are a lot of routes to the Czech Republic, to Slovakia, to Hungary and so on - which would urgently need this kind of rail projects. But we don't need it all on motorways"

In terms however of creating a strong connection for trade, for transport of goods - to encourage the upswing of economies in this region. Is it so easy to say that this isn't necessary?

"Upswing in local economies is not brought about anymore by increasing transport of goods from one place to another - because more than 70 percent of the goods transported over national borders are crossing corporation borders. So what we are paying with public taxpayers money is the internal transport system for big, international corporations, which are destroying the local economies."

"We have to question for whom the EU investments are better - for the local areas, the people, for the societies or for the big corporations. The EU is still a body, which is mainly influenced by big corporations, and it's doing what the big corporations wish. That is this kind of projects and mostly for roads. This is absolutely stupid. Transport policy has to decide whether it is in favour of rail or still continuing the wrong path favouring road transport. So the right decision would have been improving and upgrading the whole rail network in accession countries - they still have excellent rail networks - and connecting it with our countries."

20-12-2003