FORMER Transport Commissioner Karel van Miert presented a report on the future development of the Trans-European Transport Networks to the European Commission on June 30. Compiled by a group of experts appointed by transport ministers of the 15 current and the 12 future member states, the report includes recommendations on the way forward for the TENs programme, much of which has run into the sands of bureaucracy and inadequate financial support since the original proposals were endorsed by the EU Council of Ministers at a summit in Essen in December 1994.

The report also recognises the major changes that will follow the accession of the candidate countries from Eastern Europe and recommends a change of approach to funding in an attempt to ensure that priority projects really are implemented. Proposals include an increase in European financial aid for cross-border schemes from 10% to 20%, measures to facilitate public-private partnerships, and a new TENs facility for long-term loans from the European Investment Bank.

The report calls for completion by 2010 of five of the outstanding Essen projects and a start on 18 new priority projects before 2010. There are eight rail schemes including ’interoperability of the high speed rail network of the Iberian peninsula’, a rail-road bridge over the Straits of Messina to Sicily, and another rail-road link across the Fehmarn Belt between Germany and Denmark. Three further ’long-term’ priority rail projects are put forward, including a dedicated freight line from Gdansk to Bydgoszcz, Katowice and Zwardon on the Polish-Slovakian border and a high-capacity route through the Pyrenees. The report estimates that the priority TENs will cost €235bn by 2020.

The proposals were welcomed by Transport Commissioner Loyola de Palacio, but EU transport ministers meeting in Napoli on July 5-6 were less enthusiastic. While in favour of the objectives in the report, they made it clear that they would not back a special transport fund or support the idea of an agency to implement the programme.

Next step is for the Commission to consult on the proposals and conduct a detailed assessment of the programme. It will then propose changes to the guidelines for development of the TENs programme for later implementation.