European integration has seen dramatic changes in mobility patterns to meet developments in economic activities. However, decision-makers lack information on current patterns of transport activity, and there is only limited knowledge of the impacts of existing policies and investments. Therefore, the European Commission has been promoting the development of a European Transport policy Information System (ETIS). ETIS is intended to provide a central means of access to transport statistics. It could also include a wider range of decentralised information, allowing lessons from past infrastructure projects to be remembered and made available to wider audiences.
The goal of ASSEMBLING was to develop a prototype 'information service' on the use of transport infrastructure for policy-makers across Europe. It would use a web-based system to assemble information coming from a network of regional monitoring centres or observatories. Specific aims were to:
- assemble existing dispersed data and transform it into meaningful information for policy analysts and decision makers;
- guarantee the topicality of information by continual updating;
- present the information in a user-friendly format.
A network of web sites has been developed to provide user-friendly access to harmonise information coming from a pilot group of monitoring centres (Nordic triangle, Pyrenees, Rhine gateway, East Mediterranean, West Mediterranean). The information particularly concerned infrastructure projects and transport corridors. In addition, 'knowledge tools' for forecasting and policy assessment have been provided (building on the system dynamics approach developed in the ASTRA and SCENES projects).
Each monitoring centre can be defined as a local, regional, national or trans-national body that manages information relevant to transport or its impacts. ASSEMBLING, surveyed existing monitoring centres, and made recommendations for the specification of centres to feed information to ETIS - such as a well-defined remit, compatible data systems and political neutrality.
To harmonise the information systems at the five centres, ASSEMBLING experimented with two internet server solutions, both able to provide interactive communication between remote users and the databases, models and graphics tools running on the server. In addition, a central web site was designed to act as the main gateway to the ASSEMBLING information service.
ASSEMBLING demonstrated the feasibility of developing a network of observatories to monitor the application of European transport policies, particularly for large infrastructure projects. The information provided was complementary to the statistical data already available, e.g. through EUROSTAT, allowing problems and solutions to be better understood.
ASSEMBLING made a number of recommendations:
- Selected projects in the Trans-European Transport Network could each have an observatory, providing a good basis for learning across projects.
- The problem of intellectual property rights in relation to data has to be discussed and solved.
- Observatories should provide the Internet-based services as far as possible.
- The best short-term option to include monitoring information in ETIS would be through a network of focused observatories, managed by independent experts selected on open bids and supervised by the Commission.