Better integrated and more sustainable mobility infrastructure for an Ever Closer Union

Submitted by the Political Commission 2 – Internal European Affairs
Adopted by the online Federal Committee on 5 April 2020. Re-adopted by the Federal Committee in Prague on 13 November 2022.

The mobility of people and goods are two of the four freedoms of the Single Market and major pillars of a better integrated Europe. Transport, however, is one of the key sectors emitting greenhouse gases, mainly through the construction of infrastructure, the manufacturing of vehicles (cars, buses, trams, metros, trains, trucks, ships, airplanes), and the power needed to move them (fuels or electricity). Climate change and climate action have become topics of high importance in the past few years and are some of the top priorities on the political agenda of the European Union. Therefore, we call for developments in the transport sector which are beneficial for citizens and are aligned with the EU’s climate targets.

JEF Europe,

  • Welcoming the European Green Deal target of climate neutrality in 2050, and the intermediate step outlined in the Fit for 55 package of a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, taking note of recent legislation for sectors not covered by the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) and urging further action;
  • Taking into account the European Commission’s Strategy on Sustainable and Smart Mobility;
  • Taking into consideration the initiatives to increase and better manage the capacity of railways and inland waterways;
  • Alarmed by the fact that the transport sector’s emissions amounted to a quarter of the EU-27’s total greenhouse emissions in 2020 and that transport is the main cause of air pollution in cities;
  • Noting with worry the current costs of cross-border rail travel, which can prevent groups with fewer financial resources from accessing it;
  • Recognising the challenges in planning cross-border travel connections and the insecurity this can cause;
  • Emphasising the issues surrounding ageing infrastructure;
  • Welcoming the creation of the European Union Agency for Railways (ERA) as the single point of contact for cross-border authorisations for rolling stock, which clarifies the procedures and obliges national authorities to respond within a certain timeframe;
  • Recalling the strong symbol set by train movement throughout Europe during the European Year of the Rail in 2021 while noting that the rail carriages that made the journey were of a very old standard, thus emphasising once more the need for implementing modern standards consistently in all of Europe;
  • Stressing the importance of free movement across borders for all the residents of the EU, no matter the means of transportation, as well as of the free movement of goods, both being two of the four freedoms of the Single Market;
  • Further emphasising free movement as one of the key factors in building a European identity;
  • Recalling JEF’s “Environment does not stop at the borders: Towards a Sustainable Europe and a Sustainable Global Climate Policy” resolution;
  • Recognising the lack of adequate public transport infrastructure in certain regions of Europe, as well as the lack of adequate service in some places where the infrastructure exists but is not being used up to its full potential;
  • Condemning protectionist attitudes by certain member states regarding competition in their high-speed and long-distance rail networks, which are severely hampering the development of cross-border long-distance rail routes;
  • Concerned that authorities and transport operators in border regions still too often fail to integrate the cross-border dimension in their thinking and planning, thus resulting in less public transport options for regional and commuter cross border transport;
  • Welcoming and highlighting the DiscoverEU initiative as a tool for young people to discover European cultural heritage by using sustainable means of transport;
  • Reaffirming the necessity of having an affordable and well-developed rail-network, with competitive prices relative to air travel, in order to make environment-friendly modes of transport the best option;
  • Understanding the importance of commuter transport and commuter-to-long distance connectivity as an essential element for the establishment of a rational and well-connected transport network;
  • Acknowledging the necessity of cross-border service, timetable and tariffication system coordination in order to rationalise operations and adapt them to both the reality of cross-border regions but also the necessities of trans-European railway services;
  • Welcoming the revision in 2021 of the rail passenger rights directive that will come into effect in June 2023 as a necessary step to further improving passenger rights;
  • Deploring the difficulties in the purchase of train tickets throughout Europe;
  • Recognising the efforts of European countries, regions and cities to promote cycling and other sustainable means of transport, as well as taking note of the remaining difficulties in accessing bicycle and other transport-sharing networks in other cities and towns, regions and countries;
  • Welcoming the launching of the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) by ICAO and the fact that most EU member states have joined the scheme;
  • Also underlining the necessity of the development of sustainable sea transport to promote free sustainable mobility between regions with little or no land connection;

JEF Europe therefore,

1. Highlights the need for a public transport network across the EU which is viable, accessible and affordable for all residents;
2. Demands that Member States respect the Schengen Agreement for everyone in the European Union when they use public transport across borders, and that all exceptions should be duly motivated and limited in time;
3. Calls for the EU to internalise externalities for all modes of transport to ensure a level-playing field and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases in the transport sector as a whole, if possible by using existing instruments and by creating new ones where necessary;
4. Calls for the EU to renegotiate the international provisions that allow kerosene for aviation to be purchased tax-free, failing which the EU should at least create a legally-binding mechanism to ensure fair taxation of kerosene in aviation for domestic European flights;
5. Calls upon the EU, European states and regional and local authorities to accelerate their efforts to decarbonise the transport sector by:

  • favouring low-carbon options in all procurement processes for mobility services for all modes of transport (be they road or rail-based),
  • funding research into the entire value-chains, from production to distribution and storage, of advanced biofuels, electric batteries, hydrogen and renewable synthetic fuels,
  • creating the necessary infrastructure to support mobility using these decarbonised, new types of fuels,
  • creating the market conditions that allow these decarbonised fuels to compete and replace carbon-based mobility, by adequately pricing fossil fuels and removing existing subsidies and other incentives for using fossil fuels;

6. Welcomes the Fit for 55 Strategy goal of ending the sales of combustion engine cars by 2035, however noting with sadness that the EU is less ambitious than some member states that proposed to do it by 2025, and calls for all steps to be taken to ensure a smooth transition to decarbonised fuels and modes of transport;
7. Stresses that the European strategy on electric and hydrogen vehicle charging points should come with strong guarantees of origin to ensure the electricity and hydrogen come from clean energy sources;
8. Reminds that European authorities and infrastructure managers need to prioritise maintaining and improving the use of existing infrastructure wherever possible before building new infrastructure projects, as this will save costs and reduce emissions;
9. Stresses the fact that any transport infrastructure project should be subject to strong environmental impact assessments to minimise detrimental impacts on the climate and the environment, and calls for the EU to require this as a condition for EU funding for infrastructure projects in the Member States;
10. Asks member states and regions to better coordinate cross-border infrastructure projects so as that they become operational at the same time;
11. Demands that the EU, Member States and other European states, as well as public transport operators, work together to reach full interoperability for all modes of transport by implementing existing standards where possible and developing new ones where necessary, in order to guarantee open access to each other’s railway networks;
12. Asks for the EU, Member States and railway infrastructure managers to speed up the rollout of European Train Control System (ETCS) and the fourth railway package, and to reduce the number of exceptions that are allowed, in order to get the full benefits of standardisation across Europe and remove the remaining barriers to the creation of the Single European Railway Area;
13. Requests the national and regional authorities to fully cooperate in good faith when negotiating and realising cross-border transport projects, and that particular emphasis must continue to be placed in expanding both cross-border highspeed rail and night train services between major population centres;
14. Asks for authorities, train operating companies and other transport companies operating in border regions to hire more bilingual personnel and provide the needed training to enough personnel to be able to provide cross-border transport services taking into account barriers such as differences in personnel authorisation procedures and specific language requirements between different countries;
15. Calls for coordinated action on the European level for transnational transport networks, welcomes the new proposal for the EU’s Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) Regulation and stresses its crucial nature in ensuring the development of high-quality transport infrastructure connecting all parts of Europe;
16. Demands that interconnectedness and sustainability be reflected in EU funding provided, among others, through the Connected Europe Facility (CEF), InvestEU, Cohesion Policy and European Structural and Investment Funds, in order to close the current gap between local transport networks in border regions and core long-distance rail routes;
17. Encourages the increase in public transport (buses, trains, etc.) frequency and better connecting times to improve transport across all scales, from commuter and regional to long-distance mobility, including in peripheral and less densely populated regions of Europe, especially where the level of service can be improved with no or only minimal infrastructure works;
18. Asks for significant improvements to so-called feeder transport systems, such as buses, trams, metros, which bring persons to trains on the regional and urban levels, by improving the level of service and by coordinating and unifying tariffication systems as much as possible to provide clarity to customers;
19. Calls for the establishment of a European public multimodal transport ticketing system combining different modes of transport, to make public transport travel more efficient and accessible across borders, and continuing to develop passengers’ rights in view of travel including different modes of transport;
20. Calls for the EU to define the clause for exceptional circumstances (force majeure) as narrowly as possible, to ensure passengers’ rights are protected adequately, and to unify whenever possible the definitions for force majeure across different modes of transport to ensure a level-playing field;
21. Invites the European Commission , working closely with local authorities, to investigate the possibility of greater interoperability for local public transport cards to also work in other cities, while keeping any benefits such as youth, student, retired or disability-related discounts;
22. Invites the Commission to work in close cooperation with the Committee of the Regions and Member States on developing an EU strategy for urban development which places sustainability, pedestrian mobility, proximity and residents’ well-being at its heart, with the realisation of the “15 minute city” concept in mind;
23. Asks for the EU to organise more forums for representatives of all levels of governance, as well as businesses and representatives of civil society to exchange best practices for sustainable mobility inside cities, metropolitan areas, and other territories with particular needs and characteristics and better urban and spatial planning;
24. Calls for the expansion of the European cycle route network “EuroVelo”;
25. Stresses the importance of synergies between the transport of people and goods, and how these can help shift demand from the road to the railway;
26. Urges the EU and member states to all participate in the Eurovignette scheme, in order to internalise external costs and create a level-playing field for road mobility (truck) companies all over the European Union in terms of truck tolls, safety, maximum weight, driver working times, and labour costs, to avoid traffic diversions and other Single Market distortions, as well as to encourage operators to increase the share of goods moved by rail or boat;
27. Calls for more action on developing the decarbonised transport of goods, by investing in required infrastructure as well as mobility hubs (to switch cargo between railways, roads and rivers);
28. Calls for a renewed focus on the transport of goods on rivers and canals in Europe and for more funding into the required infrastructure;
29. Calls for European focus on development of more sustainable marine transport, both passenger and cargo, within Europe and globally, through e.g. introduction of emissions limits to ships calling at EU ports, development of alternative fuels and creating a plan for zero-emissions transport by sea aligned with the Fit for 55 and climate neutrality targets;
30. Calls for the creation, with the help of EU funding and according to a common European strategy, of new cargo ports on the Mediterranean shores of the EU, to rebalance the arrival of shipping to our continent which today still passes disproportionately through the Rhine and North Sea ports, thus resulting in longer travel distances for many goods that are destined for Southern or Central Europe;
31. Recommends the EU to instil a clean transport culture in all its policies, in particular Erasmus+, by incentivizing students benefiting from Erasmus grants to use sustainable means of transportation;
32. Commits to lead by example and to promote clean means of transport when its members have to travel for JEF purposes.