Summary & Prologue
Income-Driven Demand for Air Travel
Air/Rail Modal Split: Competition or Symbiosis?
EU Injections and Priorities
Could Backwardness Offer an Advantage?
An Interim Solution
The International Dimension
Funding & Conclusion

Towards an integration of European transport

Original in pdf format

Even before the adoption of the Lisbon strategy in 2000, sustainable economic growth was a major objective of the European Commission. Accordingly, a key element of the 'old' EC policy has been a balanced development of transport. In the 2001 White Paper "European transport policy for 2010: Time to decide", the European Commission pleaded strongly for a rebalancing of transport modes.

On the threshold to the 21st century, it became abundantly clear that an unbridled expansion of road traffic would soon push our civilization to the brink of disaster. At the same time, it was realized that only by providing convenient alternatives to both Road and Air, could the crowded continent escape the horrors of congestion.

In order to protect our environment from the disastrous impact of the swelling road traffic and the anticipated expansion of aviation, the EC proposed to break the link between economic growth and transport growth, among others by shifting the balance between the modes of transport, to achieve, eventually, their all-round integration.

Hence, revitalising the railways and promoting water transport (both inland and sea shipping) were among the principal objectives considered back in 2001. In fact, the growing popularity of high speed (HS) trains and the encouraging record of the expanding HS rail network, promised not only to reduce pollution, but also help save energy.

The White Paper programme

In the section "The need for integration of transport in sustainable devel opment" (pp. 14-16), the White Paper proposed an integrative approach that would bring about a shift of balance between the transport modes from 2010 onwards (p. 15). The ultimate goal was wholesale integration, based on a well- balanced pan-European transport network.

With this strategic objective in mind, the White Paper proposed to give pri- ority to railways (p. 13), to monitor the energy efficiency of transport modes (p. 14), to break the link between eco- nomic growth and transport growth (p. 14), to improve the modal split (p. 15), and to restructure the road sector (pp. 25-26).

In the White Paper, the following environmental problems were dis- cussed: massive encroachments of the expanding road network (pp. 24-25), aviation as a source of noise and atmospheric pollution (39-40), the burden of external costs (76-77), and the growing demand for fuel and energy (82-86).

Seeking to promote HS trains as a substitute to inter-city driving and short-haul flights, the White Paper stated bluntly (p. 38): "We can no longer think of maintaining air links to destinations where there is a competitive high speed rail alternative" (however loosely expressed, the concept of substitution is there!), and on pp. 51-53 we read of "the ability of high speed trains to replace air transport" and of "integrating the high speed train network with air transport".

In a word, to protect the environment and conserve energy, the 2001 White Paper admonished us to substitute Rail for Road and Air as much and as far as possible.

The mid-term review

Five years on, in June 2006, the European Commission summed up its mid-term review of the 2001 White Paper in a communication entitled Keep Europe moving - Sustainable mobility for our continent [COM(2006), XXX].

The communication tells us how much (or rather, how little) had been achieved halfway through the pro- gramme. In fact, on reading Keep Europe moving, we come upon significant gaps:

(1) the White Paper's declared policy of rebalancing the modes of transport, or modal shift (from Road and Air to Rail), is barely mentioned;
(2) high speed (HS) railways are mentioned in passing in a few places, mainly in the context of freight;
(3) not a single word is devoted to the extension of HS rail to the new EU member states of East-Central Europe;
(4) completely ignored is the idea of interconnecting major airports by HS trains;
(5) air transport (aviation) is treated marginally (p.10), though environmental aspects of aviation are mentioned in a few places.

Ostensible concern with environmental issues contrasts with the actual projections for 2010 and 2020: from the two graphs, Evolution of modal split in passenger/freight transport, we learn that the relative share of Road and Rail in passenger transport will not improve even by 2020, while in freight, the share of Rail is expected to decline: from 11% in 2000 to 9% in 2010, and to 8% in 2020. In the same time span, the share of air traffic is to grow from 8% to 11%.

On the evidence of those forecasts, the European habitat will see no relief and will be delivered to the oncoming climate change, which is a very real scare for a continent thriving on the Gulf Stream

Expansion before consolidation

The formidable task of European transport integration is compounded by the stepwise enlargement of the Union, a sizeable one recorded in May 2004, and a smaller envisaged as of 2007 (Romania and Bulgaria). One would think that a corollary of each successive en- largement is the consolidation of previous acquisitions.

Consequently, any further expansion of the European Union ought to be preceded by an integration of the previously acquired territory, particularly in terms of transport. Like an army that must consolidate its territorial gains, the affluent Western countries should first shore up their new possessions and lay firm tracks for their future advances in eastern and south-eastern Europe.Leaving a vacuum anywhere behind the front lines is bound to put the next offensive at risk.

Now, such a vacuum is clearly in evidence on all the charts and maps published in recent years. In the High Level Group chart Major trans-national axes (p.3, Networks for Peace and De- velopment, Nov. 2005) [see ] we find, for instance, the plains of Poland crossed longitudinally by just one red line (rail, bifurcating to Gdansk) and one green line (road). Besides those two, the flatland of Po- land is crossed latitudinally by two 'old' axes: Berlin - Warsaw - Brest (C2) and Dresden - Katowice - Lviv (C3), each comprising a motorway and an upgrad- ed railway (160 km/h).

Please note that the HLG has in mind two horizons: projects to start before 2010 and those extending be- yond 2020. While reaching out to the Mediterranean as well as to the Cau- casus and Siberia (!), the HLG seems to assume that those axes will cope with what the bulging European Union is likely to generate in terms of traffic (freight and passenger alike) in all those directions over the next 10 to 20 or more years.

In Networks for Peace and Devel- opment the HLG envisions an expan- sion of 'European' transport routes all around the Mediterranean Sea, across Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Sinai, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco (which is also to be reached from the Iberian peninsula), and in addition, to the Caucasus, and right into Siberia, that is, far beyond Europe. Even if this is projected beyond the horizon of 2020, the compelling conclusion is: too far, too fast as long as the recent acquisi- tions have not been consolidated.

There is a lot of evidence that a similar haste overshadows other cur- rent debates.

While looking far ahead, much far- ther than the 2001 White Paper, the HLG report does mention HS railways outside the 'old' EU, but much to our surprise, these are not linked in any way to the European network as known from available programmes: "high speed passenger railway line Moscow - St Petersburg" and "high speed railway line Casablanca - Marrakech" (!).

Our reference to the HLG chart is meant to illustrate a trend that seems to dominate the thinking of many EU captains consumed by the desire to expand as quickly as possible, without regard for what is going on behind the front lines

Disparate interests

The lofty ideas of the 2001 Transport White Paper have clashed with the sombre realities of the EU Administration, afflicted, as any other, by a rigid division of competences. One inevitable consequence is compartmentalization. Thus,

(1) environmentalists are busy measuring pollution - reaching the conclusion that we are heading for an ultimate destruction of our natural environment, preceded by a progressive deterioration in the quality of life;
(2) energy experts are busy looking for new resources - and predict that our fuel resources will be com- pletely exhausted in the span of two generations;
(3) road traffic analysts point to the declining chances of halving the fatality rate by 2010 - but show no interest in finding alternatives to Road;
(4) the rail sector is seeking comfort in the growing HS traffic - which can not outweigh the decline in general passenger and, especially, freight traffic;
(5) aviators are gratified to see the steep rise in air traffic - much to the dismay of environmentalists.

What is missing in the EC mid-term review Keep Europe moving is an overall assessment of the situation and a plan to harmonise the divergent tendencies as well as reconcile the disparate interests of all the agents concerned (by interests we rather mean preoccupation, and not necessarily mercantile gain). Obviously, there is an urgent need of a cross-modal integrative approach that would clearly define the objectives for all the sectors and modes involved.

It may well be that the EU admin- istration has reached a point beyond which the top-heavy apparatus loses its ability to engage in concerted actions, precisely at a time when Europe will soon face the disastrous consequences of climate change - as pointed out by President Barroso last November.

Strategic decisions in the offing

In defiance of the fragmentation owed to the progressing specialization of the administration, the European Commission must work out an inte- gral programme of curbing the current growth in energy consumption by lend- ing strong support to the most energy- efficient, and at the same time least environment-damaging transport modes, while disadvantaging distinctly the most energy-intensive and least environ- ment-friendly ones. Pursuing this objec- tive in a world of snowballing mobility, we must aim at an all-round integration of transport modes by replacing the current competition with a harmonious cooperation and, eventually, a perfect symbiosis of Road, Rail and Air.

An even more dramatic challenge is on the horizon with the economic expansion of China and India. The staggering growth rate of the two most populous countries on Earth make it abundantly clear that within a decade or so, the two giants will not only have grown into superpowers, but will also be able to ensure ever higher living standards to their inhabitants, who al- ready make up more than one third of the global population.

By 2020, two and a half billion Chinese, Indians, Koreans etc. will start thinking of visiting Europe, if only to inspect the remnants of a great civi- lization. Assuming that just one in ten of them chooses this particular desti- nation, Europe will have to cope with a flood of visitors numbering hundreds of millions per year. Of course, they will be coming by plane.

Where are we going to build the dozens of runways and terminals needed to absorb this deluge? Would anyone consider adding a few more terminals on the periphery of Heath- row or Frankfurt, and build another, and another, and another, runway be- yond that periphery? The present level of atmospheric pollution around the major West European airports makes us shudder at this prospect. Even to- day, these airports breathe with relief watching the offensive of the low-cost carriers whose planes operate from secondary airports; they are likewise relieved to see more and more tran- sit passengers use alternative hubs to reach destinations overseas.
The European Commission must squarely face those global challenges.

Towards a model of Rail-Road-Air integration

After decades of rivalry in both passenger and freight traf?c, over distances of from 200 to 500 miles, the three basic modes of transport are very much jealous of each other. Still, the hard facts of (economic) life should persuade them to acknowl- edge eventually their mutual comple- mentarity. In other words, the three are in for learning how to coexist in perfect harmony, while bracing each other.

All over Europe, within the next quarter century (by 2030), a skeleton of high speed (HS) railways linking the conurbations and major airports of the region should cope with the growing demand for quick and com- fortable travelling over distances of up to 800 km (a model case: Paris - Marseilles), not excluding express goods trains - thus relegating both the passenger car and the airliner to what are their sensible uses.

To become truly efficient, HS rail- ways must follow the French pattern: they must bypass all cities and settle- ments (much like motorways) and, in addition, they must have stations right under the (mid-field) terminals of the major airports, from where passen- gers could proceed (by escalators and travelators) to the check-ins, concen- trated within a limited perimeter.

Some countries have undertaken to interconnect their major airports by HS rail already. A showcase can be found in Germany, where a HS railway was built across hilly coun- try, to link Frankfurt Airport with Köln (Cologne) and, in future, other points of the PBKAL triangle. To make such Air-Rail interconnections truly effec- tive, and hence Rail fully competi- tive against Air, the HS railway station must be situated under the airport. The existing solution at Charles de Gaulle airport does not meet this con- dition because the TGV station there is situated between just four of a total of fourteen terminals.

The first airline that seems to have realized that short-haul flights simply don't pay is KLM. According to the (Dutch) High Speed Alliance, KLM has taken out a 10% stake in the con- sortium set up to build and operate the HS line Amsterdam - Schiphol -Rotterdam (- Antwerp) with the express purpose of eliminating short- haul flights (also to Brussels and Paris) and replacing them with train jour- neys. The trains will have a stop un- der Schiphol airport. 'Flying by train' from Schiphol is likely to begin in mid-2007.

The model airport has yet to be built, but there is already one project meant to implement this idea: BBI, or the future Berlin airport (in fact, an extension of Schönefeld), where ICE trains will come to stop right under- neath a mid-field terminal

The model airport

The model airport must meet more requirements than just an HS train sta- tion under the airport. It must have a truly mid-field terminal (no extra piers out of reach for passengers on foot) lo- cated on top of (at least) two intersect- ing trunk lines, offering quick, direct services to conurbations and between airports as far away as 500 km (= two hours). Furthermore, such an airport must be easily accessible from nearby motorways.

Because of these requirements, the model airport cannot evolve from an existing airport; in fact, only a green- field project can meet all the specified requirements.

This bland assertion seems to ex- clude the densely populated areas of Western Europe from the Garden of Eden. Well, not exactly, because the ideal solution may be approached gradually, at enormous cost, of course, starting with 'makeshift' solutions, like the ICE station at Frankfurt Airport, the TGV station at Charles de Gaulle, the express train station at Zurich Klöten, and (very soon) the HS train station at Amsterdam Schiphol.

The ongoing expansion of the HS train network will eventually ensure direct services between many other airports where rail stations exist or will be built near the (main) terminal(s). Though less conveniently located than the 'ideal' HS train station under the mid-field terminal, such stations can still become integrated into what would become the European airport network, as part and parcel of a fully integrated European transport system.

This vision may not come true be- fore 2020 (hence it is missing in the 2001 paper European Aeronautics: A Vision for 2020), but it is certainly worth the effort and expense.

By replacing short-haul flights aswell as long-distance motoring by HS train trips, we will not only conserve energy and protect our environment, but also save money, simply because the latter means of transport is definitely more economical than the other two.

A testing ground for integration

The concept of Rail-Road-Air Inte- gration, intimated in the 2001 White Paper, and yet consistently ignored in the mid-term review, could be put to the test across the expanses of East- Central Europe.

The obvious testing ground for such all-round integration lies east of the tightly knit network of the 'old' EU, that is, east of Berlin. A look at the UIC map of the European HS network (http://airport-on-rails. en- visaged for 2020, reveals the planned extension of HS railways as far as Ber- lin and Vienna, but not beyond. And what actually lies beyond, are lands ideally suited for large-scale projects of the greenfield type.

The anticipated economic advance of the newly accessed EU member states, which - according to EU statis- tics - in the next 20 years are scheduled to reach or even overtake the present per capita GDP of the richest 'old' EU countries, creates the potential for an expansion of HS railways fully inte- grated with the major airports of the region. The skeleton of the envisaged fusion of Air and Rail in East-Central Europe is depicted in the chart Air- Rail Integration (http://airport-on-rails.

Specifically, the proposed model of Air-Rail-Road integration can be put to the test across the relatively underpopulated and underdeveloped flatlands of Poland, thanks to copi- ous funds made available by the EU as well as the drive and enthusiasm of the Poles. A vision of the future Central Poland Airport (CPL), situated on top of two intersecting HS railways, is present- ed in The eventual success of the proposed test should encourage the most crowded, congested and polluted regions of Western Europe to adopt this model, be it at much higher cost.

Not until a network of such rail-interconnected airports, 300 to 500 km apart, is in operation all across Europe, will the European Union have developed a truly efficient, economic and environment-friendly transport system. One capable of coping with the challenges of the approaching decades.


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