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FIA Eurocouncil’s views regarding the review of the European transport policy

Publication date: 27 March 2009

The Eurocouncil of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the leading motoring and touring organisation, represents via its 71  national motoring and touring organisations in 47 European countries, 34 million European motorists. Europe’s motoring and touring organisations have as their highest priority to put their members’ interests at the centre of Europe’s sustainable mobility policy in order to make mobility more sustainable, i.e. more reliable, cleaner and safer while keeping it affordable for all.

The Eurocouncil’s FIA member motoring and touring clubs’ long experience means that they have the knowledge of how to best address mobility challenges all over Europe. The traditional focus of the clubs is on road safety. A more recent field of activity covers traffic management, with road patrols helping to speed up the process of incident clearance, and traffic information services giving congestion warnings to help motorists find an alternative route in time. Since the motoring and touring clubs are involved in technical development projects and participate in a variety of expert groups, they operate at the cutting edge and promote innovative solutions by taking part in pilot projects. The clubs focus on their role in consumer protection, testing for example “green wave” traffic light coordination, public transport systems, park-and-ride facilities or cycling-friendly infrastructure. It is the close contact to road users and local, regional and national authorities that ensures practical, financially viable and user-oriented solutions.

As the voice of Europe’s motoring consumers the Eurocouncil of the FIA believes that European transport policy should be solid, reality-tested and long-term oriented in order to successfully tackle present and future challenges.

1) Preliminary remarks

Facts and figures
A vital tool to assess transport-related issues is sound facts and good analysis. Quantifying transport performance should be an important step when highlighting a problem, assessing its extent and defining the need for action. Developing policies without usable definitions or numerical and statistical foundations is like developing economic policy without sound GDP figures, interest rates or price indices.
Targeted research activities could be structured along the following four research areas.

  • Area 1: Data collection / Demand analysis
  • Area 2: Sustainable strategies / Traffic planning & management / Land use
  • Area 3: Transport supply side / Integrated and harmonised systems and services
  • Area 4: User aspects: safety, security, comfort, accessibility

Each of these areas could then be analysed with the purpose to:

  • Screen and comment on existing documents at the European level, such as Strategic Research Agendas and European Research Projects, so as to propose some European targets for a sustainable mobility
  • Identify the research topics which can be regarded as essential for their consideration in the future draft of the Mobility Strategic Research Agenda to be set up at the European level

Claim 1: Transport policy needs to be based on relevant facts and good analysis

Lisbon agenda
Mobility is an important enabler of social, economical and environmental welfare and not a playing field for ideological battles. The proper functioning of the EU’s transport system is essential to its competitiveness and the quality of life of its citizens. It enables the production process to run smoothly and is an indispensable condition for economic growth. Citizens should benefit from a transport system whose design and management corresponds to their needs, taking into account social, economic and environmental aspects in a balanced way.
Especially with regard to the objectives of the Lisbon agenda, European transport policy has to fully support the needs of Europe’s citizens in terms of mobility and should not be misused as an instrument to pursue ideological objectives. Every mode of transport has advantages and disadvantages. They need to be recognised and used to the benefit of European citizens. A policy that does not take into account the real needs is bound to fail, implying tremendous costs to society. A transport system guided by ideological principles jeopardises the welfare of all.

Claim 2: European transport policy has to support the needs of Europe’s citizens

Role of road transport
European policy has in the past often failed to take account of the vital and central role of road transport in the European economy and society. Road transport contributes to social integration by reducing the geographical handicap of peripheral countries and regions and bringing EU citizens closer together. 90% of passengers and 80% of inland freight transport in the EU is carried on roads. The passenger car is the premier mode of transport for the vast majority of European citizens. It is unmatched for independent mobility and convenience and its benefit to society will continue to grow as the balance between social costs and benefits becomes increasingly positive.

Claim 3: The benefit of the car to society will continue to grow as the balance between social costs and benefits becomes increasingly positive

Forced modal shift
Individual and collective transport offer different services and therefore fulfil different needs. They are not, as to often assumed, communicating vessels. Statistical evidence showing a large predominance of individual transport means with almost nine motorised journeys out of ten made by individual transport in the EU, compared to around one in ten by public transport, pinpoints to the fact that the individual transport is the area where most of the work needs to be done. The efforts need therefore to be focussed on enhancing the sustainability of individual transport. Public transport plays without any doubt a crucial supportive role which can be enhanced if its service is further adapted to the needs of its users (comfort, flexibility, modal integration, etc.). A forced modal shift policy based on traffic restrictions and increased costs for individual transport lead to loss of welfare without the expected benefits for mobility and quality of life.
With its focus on moving away from individual transport, the White Paper of 2001 undermined socio-economic welfare. Despite the considerable support allocated to rail, the targeted modal shift has not come anywhere close. This policy lacked a basis in economic or social reality.

Claim 4: Forced modal shift through traffic restrictions and increased costs result in loss of welfare

Infrastructure development

A good transport infrastructure is a condition for sustainable mobility in ensuring smooth traffic flow and giving a high level of safety. While almost nine out of ten transport journeys are done on the road the European Commission, policy failed to focus sufficient support (e.g. TEN-T investment) on road infrastructure maintenance and development, driver information and training, new information technologies and efficient integrated public transport while promoting inefficient and costly alternatives.

Claim 5: Appropriate investment in road infrastructure is indispensable for sustainable mobility

Public transport needs to become more efficient and better integrated in order to offer a competitive transport service to the mobile consumer. The efforts of the European Union to liberalise the public transport markets have had a limited success. As a consequence public transport remains little efficient and offers poor services to consumers. Public transport will be attractive if it offers a partly equivalent and effective alternative to the individual transport. An important element in this strategy is the inter-modal integration that gives public transport a significant competitive advantage (e.g. park-and-ride, bike-and-ride, car hire and car sharing). Inter-modal integration is especially important in urban areas, where public transport plays an important role as an alternative to the private car. Car pooling, car sharing and (company) mobility management also contribute to making daily commuting more efficient.

Claim 6: Public transport needs to become more efficient and better integrated

Walking and cycling
Walking and cycling can be real alternatives to motorised transport for short distances if the environment and infrastructure allows an easy and safe trip. This includes:

  • Barrier-less road environment for the mobility impaired people
  • Bicycle hire points, bike-and-ride systems and anti-theft bicycle sheds
  • Safe road environment (for example separated bicycle lanes)
  • Dedicated sign systems
  • Space for bicycles on public transport

Claim 7: Walking and cycling need the appropriate environment and infrastructure

External costs
The approach chosen by the European Commission to internalise external costs through charges contradicts the goals fixed by the Lisbon Agenda by unnecessarily burdening the European economy. A proper assessment of the so-called external costs is outstanding. The study on which the Commission bases its policy proposals is merely a compilation of research results obtained on the basis of wrong assumptions. Moreover, an internalisation without a cost-benefit analysis is a nonsense. External benefits, such as social inclusion and economic prosperity, have not been considered. In fact, taxes and charges paid by motorists cover all of their environmental and social costs.

Claim 8: Motorists already pay for all of their environmental and social costs

Urban mobility
The issue of mobility of people and goods in urban areas is often narrowed down to difficulties and loss of quality of life. Air pollution and noise problems in urban areas are finding more and more awareness in the media and the public opinion. Political leaders feel increasingly compelled to take short term drastic measures well visible to all, with road transport often becoming their first target. As a result, rather than integrating mobility into the equation of a successful city management, policy makers choose to single out transport as the cause of the problem and believe to solve it through bans and restrictions.
Cities introduce measures such as temporary and permanent bans on cars and delivery vans entering city centres. Preliminary outcomes however point out that these measures have not delivered in terms of the expected benefits for congestion, the environment, safety and noise, while causing more harm than good to ordinary people when attending their daily tasks. Restricting mobility affects the social and economic welfare of cities and their inhabitants without bringing a real improvement while fostering an increasing outflow of residents and labour from central to peripheral zones. Simple barriers to mobility will not solve the problem but only defer it to some time in the future. In this case, bad urban planning cannot be sweetened by a ban or a charge. In fact, it can, in the long-term, contribute to increasing urban sprawl and therefore increase the need for mobility. This merely moves the problems from the city centre to the suburbs without solving them.
A more sustainable strategy to address the causes of the problem needs to look at the structure of cities as a whole and at the individual needs of its citizens. Authorities should alleviate the burden put on cities by mobility of goods and people, by infrastructural measures as a first option.

Claim 9: The burden put on cities by mobility of goods and people should be alleviated through better planning and infrastructural measures, not through traffic restrictions

Intelligent transport systems
ICT-based transport applications can help increasing the efficiency of transport and the use of limited infrastructure, reduce congestion and improve transport safety and security. A large number of ICT-based transport applications have been successfully developed and demonstrated in collaborative research projects throughout Europe. Today, there is a growing need to deploy them on a large scale while making sure that user needs are taken into account, that field tests confirm the proper functioning and that liability issues are addressed.

Claim 10: ICT-based transport applications need to be deployed on a large scale

Tourism is key generator of mobility demand for both business and leisure. Its significant economic contribution merits better attention. In particular the White Paper of 2001 has not considered promoting the benefits of certain modes of transport used for recreational activities (inland waterways, sea cruises). All discussions about transport and mobility issues impact tourism. The tourism industry gives jobs to more than 8% of our citizens. And many areas depend on the development of the tourism sector.

Claim 11: Tourism needs to be part of the future transport policy

Passenger rights
The FIA Eurocouncil welcomes the willingness of the Commission to improve the existing EU policy on passengers’ rights, originally developed for air transport. This policy will be adapted to the specificity of each other transport mode and have to take into account the size of the enterprises operating in the sectors concerned. The implementation of the legislation ultimately lies in 27 Member States. We believe that more should be done to ensure that consumers’ rights are effectively respected, without having to go through a long judicial procedure. As cross-border mobility is a key requirement for an effective internal market, closer attention should be paid to ensure that the legislation also encompasses inter-European travels.

Beside rail and aviation, our own consumer testing programmes (bus test, ferry test) indicate that similar initiatives in other fields would be beneficial.

Claim 12: The EC should provide passengers of busses and ferries with precise applicable policy principles in the future EU policy, taking into account the specificities of enterprises operating in these sectors

Testing, benchmarking and consumer campaigns
European FIA member clubs have been testing and benchmarking city mobility infrastructure for several years, both at national and European level (e.g. EuroTest, EuroTAP). The aim of EuroTest is to test the quality and safety of mobility in Europe and the aim of EuroTAP is to test the quality and safety of European tunnels. In the framework of EuroTest a railway stations survey was conducted in 2002 and in 2008 a pedestrian crossing survey as well as a park-and-ride survey were performed. National test included bus and ferry tests. A tool to increase the use of clean and energy efficient technologies in private transport is the information of the EcoTest programme, helping consumers in choosing environmentally friendly vehicles. Based on the experience gained in past years the FIA Eurocouncil clubs believe that testing and benchmarking contributes significantly to fostering sustainable mobility. The objectives are:

  • Raise public awareness about the actual state of mobility in Europe
  • Call for  the quality and safety standards we  believe mobile consumers deserve
  • Provide mobile consumers with tips and recommendations so they can safeguard their own mobility
  • Stimulate public debate about identified failings and if necessary call for regulations

Claim 13: Consumer information and awareness activities foster sustainable mobility

2) Environment

Cars have ever become cleaner and more fuel efficient. Toxic emissions from road transport have significantly decreased in recent years following the technological development of vehicles and fuels (CO, SO2, NOx, Pb, PM). However further improvements are still necessary.
The CO2 emissions from cars have remained stable over the last 10 years, despite a significant growth in traffic. The legislation limiting CO2 emissions from cars and vans will contribute to further significant efficiency gains. Further effective incentives include targeted motoring taxes, a harmonised CO2-labelling scheme and a large scale promotion of fuel efficient driving information and training.

Claim 14: Fuel efficient driving should be further promoted (information & training)

3) Road safety

Leadership and targets
A key factor in making roads safer is strong leadership. The commitment made by Jacques Chirac in 2002 led to a radical improvement in road safety in France. Also precise while achievable targets help raising the level of ambition and stimulate the introduction of new measures and a focus on the related research. Such commitment at the highest level is necessary at every (European, national and local) level. Objectives need to be clear and precise targets need to be set. Each European Council should set road safety on its agenda and monitor progress very closely.

Claim 15: Road safety needs strong leadership, clear objectives and precise targets

The ‘safe systems’ approach
The old paradigm that all crashes are caused by human error and the problem should therefore be resolved by educating drivers, has been replaced by a far more sophisticated view where the challenge is to create a system that minimizes errors and absorbs human mistakes in critical situations and crashes. To be most efficient any road safety policy must address vehicles, drivers and roads within a safe systems approach. Road safety is a responsibility of all stakeholders including users, vehicle manufacturers, road infrastructure owners and governments.

Claim 16: Road safety is a responsibility of all stakeholders within the “safe systems” approach

Vehicle safety
A significant road safety effort has been to improve the vehicle occupant protection in car crashes. Industry has made substantial progress, encouraged by the Euro NCAP consumer testing. Further efforts are still needed with regard to vulnerable road users. Active safety is the next significant step. The recommendations of the eSafety Forum of the Commission need to be implemented. Motorists have to be informed on the use and convinced of the utility of these safety devices. Tax incentives should help to speed up their penetration. Child restraint systems need to be further standardised and improved while consumer testing as the NPACS informs the motorist and promotes the correct use.

Claim 17: Further efforts are needed with regard to active vehicle safety and the safety vulnerable road users

Driver behaviour
The following causes of accidents should be recognised: inappropriate speed, right-of-way infringements, loss of attention, fatigue and failure to maintain safe distances between vehicles. Furthermore, a distinction needs to be made between those drivers who through foolishness commit road traffic errors and those who do so deliberately. The awareness and responsibility of all road users need to be further promoted through education and information. An important step in improving driver education should be taken by implementing the second stage of driver training. Some Member States have already successfully implemented it. The Commission should use the experience gained to implement it on the European level. Campaigns should encourage safe driving practices and programmes should insure life-long learning, targeting especially high risk groups. While effective road traffic enforcement can support road safety policy the impact is only short term. Traffic regulations should be harmonised Europe-wide in order to establish a minimum standard for road safety. Moreover, the harmonisation should also aim at insuring that road users are in no doubt of what is required of them when travelling through Europe.

Claim 18: A second stage of driver training should be implemented and traffic regulations should be harmonised Europe-wide

Road infrastructure safety
Whilst the car industry made positive strides, road infrastructure providers have escaped responsibility. The adopted Directive on Infrastructure Safety Management is a first step in the right direction. EuroRAP provides the necessary tool to analyse safety on road networks and is the missing link between single-site auditing and road safety policy. EuroRAP research clearly shows that when a road is “self explanatory” and “forgiving” the potential for reducing death and serious injury is increased.

TEN-T funding should be conditioned to the delivery of safe infrastructure and to the provision of road related risk information according to the concept of the "freedom of information act".

Consumer testing programmes like EuroTest, EuroRAP and EuroTAP play an important role in informing consumers about the safety of mobility in Europe and so contributing to higher safety.

Claim 19: TEN-T funding should be conditioned to the delivery of safe infrastructure

FIA European Bureau


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