EU tackles ‘greening’ freight transport

EU tackles ‘greening’ freight transport

Posted Jul 11, 2023, 5:56 PM

Europe wants to put the transport of goods back on the right track. This rapidly growing polluter still relies far too heavily on fossil fuels. Brussels on Tuesday unveiled a series of legislative measures intended to “green” it, when it is responsible for more than 30% of carbon dioxide emissions in the transport sector.

They are part of the Green Pact which should lead the European Union to carbon neutrality by 2050. “We will continue to have trucks. We saw it during the Covid pandemic, they made it possible to transport goods when the planes were on the ground. But transport needs to be cleaner and to achieve this we want to encourage the use of clean vehicles and intermodal transport,” said Adina Valean, Commissioner for Transport.

Overall, the plan aims to better coordinate global rail traffic, simplify administrative formalities and promote the use of digital technologies. It targets trains and heavy goods vehicles, but not maritime transport, which is covered by other regulatory texts.

Transporting a wind turbine wing across the EU

In concrete terms, several measures relate to the harmonization of rules among the Twenty-Seven, while those which fix, for example, maximum dimensions and weights for trucks, vary from one Member State to another. Similarly, some countries have bilateral agreements to cross their borders, others do not.

All this gives rise to sometimes grotesque situations. “To transport a wind turbine that cannot be cut into several pieces, you will probably need ten different permits, between local and regional authorities, illustrated the commissioner. We propose to set up a single point of contact per Member State for players in the transport sector in order to simplify their lives”.

To encourage the arrival of vehicles with low or zero CO2 emissions, Brussels is proposing to increase the additional weight and length allowed for electric vehicles or those running on hydrogen – when 96.3% of European trucks are in circulation today. today with diesel and that heavy goods vehicles in Europe account for 28% of emissions from the road sector.

It would be a question of doing the same thing to promote the development of intermodal transport – which consists of moving containers from road to rail – which is more ecological. Operators who undertake to do so could use longer and heavier trucks. The weakness of intermodal transport is a failure for the time being, recently singled out by the European Court of Auditors.

As technologies evolve and vehicles become cleaner, new rules will apply, predicts the EU, which expects 91 million fewer trips by 2030.

Brussels still wants to set up a common methodology to calculate CO2 emissions in an objective and comparable way for each mode of transport. All those who are ready to make their broadcasts public – because it is not (yet) obligatory – will have to use it. Target achievement checks for heavy goods vehicles will be put in place.

Cross-border route planning

Other proposals relate to better management of the occupation of the rails between the transport of passengers and that of goods, whereas the network managers – (SNCF networks in France) favor the former today.

The Commission is proposing to switch to a multiannual management method – instead of an annual one – and to generalize the use of digital tools so that the infrastructures of the Member States are interoperable and thus offer more flexibility to freight.

It is not a question of centralizing the management of the infrastructure in Europe, but rather of obliging the national managers to coordinate, in order to plan the use of the rails well in advance and therefore the cross-border journeys, “with an obligation to result”, emphasizes Brussels.

The EU thus hopes that the use of rail will be favored to the detriment of trucks. “By optimizing the management of the system we can expand the capacity of the network by 4%, explains a senior European official. It may not seem like much to you, but 4% more railway lines cost 8.6 billion and take years to build”.

These bills still have to be discussed by the European Parliament and Council. They will probably not come into force for three years.

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