United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

A sustainable future for transport: Towards an integrated, Technology-Led and User-Friendly System

Publication Year: 2009 Publisher: European Commission


Transport is the backbone of the European economy, accounting for about 7 % of GDP and more than 5 % of total employment in the EU. As a network industry, transport requires elements such as infrastructures, vehicles, equipment, ICT applications and operational procedures to interact smoothly in order to move people and goods efficiently.

Today transport is at a transition point.

My two predecessors, Vice-Presidents Karel Van Miert and Loyola de Palacio, launched in 1992 and 2001 respectively two successful 10-year policy programmes for the competitiveness and sustainability of the European transport system. Today, our skies, seas, railways, waterways and roads are safer, transport services are cheaper and more efficient, passenger rights have been strengthened and transport workers enjoy a higher level of social protection.

Now we are facing new and formidable challenges: science is urging us to drastically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, growing demand and declining production are pushing oil prices to unprecedented heights, and congestion is approaching intolerable levels in many cities, airports and ports. The scope of these challenges is such that a profound transformation in the transport system will be required in the coming decades. Yet resources available to meet these challenges are limited by the economic crisis in the short run and in the longer term by the ageing of our population.

The communication looks at this transformation. It is both a strategy document — defining a vision for the future of transport — and a consultation document aiming at collecting views on how to translate this vision into concrete policy actions. I strongly believe that meeting the future challenges will require focusing on new technologies and on the integration of the different transport modes into a single system — all this in a more integrated internal market in which competition is fully granted. It also implies that the needs of transport users and workers are kept at the centre of policymaking. Europe is a world leader in many transport domains and can make, by further developing its strengths, a positive contribution to solving global concerns.

I hope that readers of this document will appreciate the importance and the difficulty of the task ahead and will make a contribution to our reflections. The responses to the consultation will help the Commission in preparing, in 2010, a new White Paper that will outline the European transport policy for the next decade.