Energy and transport play a key role in people's lives and are decisive factors in economic competitiveness and employment. The promotion of sustainable development including its economic growth dimension and continued freedom of movement has become a central objective of European Union policy.
Reaching this objective requires comprehensive policy measures, voluntary agreements, financial schemes and support to research and development. These are at the heart of the Commission proposals presented in the Green Paper 'Towards a European strategy for the security of energy supply', and in the White Paper 'European transport policy for 2010: time to decide'.
In setting out different options, these policy documents clearly identify the main factors contributing to current unsustainable development patterns. The continuous increase in energy and transport demand and their growing dependence on imported fuels, notably oil, is undermining the sustainable development of the European economy.
Although the concept of sensitive areas has been repeatedly evoked in the context of EU transport policies, there is to date no scientific and no political agreement on a definition, nor is there an agreed approach to address the specific concerns associated to transport related SA (TSA).
The ASSET project addresses Task 6: 'Transport related sensitive areas' of Section 3.2 'The development of tools, indicators and operational parameters for assessing sustainable transport and energy systems performance (economic, environmental and social)' of the SSP (Scientific Support to Policies) 5A call.
The project developed the scientific and methodological capabilities to implement European policies aiming at balancing the environmental protection of Sensitive Areas (SA) with the provision of an efficient transport system. Special emphasis on market based instruments.
- improved policy formulation/implementation (infrastructure charging, sustainable development of TEN-T)
- common framework of definitions, criteria and valuation parameters for Transport Sensitive Areas (TSA),
- methodology for assessment of sensitiveness in TSA,
- mapping of TSAs across the EU,
- review of policy instruments for the protection of SA, analysis of applicability to different TSA categories, identification of policy packages,
- detailed assessment of proposed methodology and policy instruments for 10 case studies (mountainous, urban/metropolitan, natural/protected, coastal areas), different modes, types of traffic and geographical situations,
- policy guidelines for TSA.
ASSET featured eight Work packages (WP), including WP0 Management and WP7 Dissemination.
WP1 Setting the scene is based on an extensive review of existing references to the TSA concept in legislative acts, policy initiatives, as well as in previous research and studies, across different domains and impact categories (environment, ecosystem, transport performance, land use changes etc.). It will notably provide a preliminary classification of TSAs in relation to their inherent characteristics, and will serve as the common basis for the analyses to be carried out in the following WPs.
WP2 Identification and assessment of sensitiveness analyses the functional chain leading from the transport activity (realisation/extension and use of the transport infrastructure) to the damages and costs, for each sensitive area as classified in WP1. It will then provide a suitable set of indicators addressing the most relevant cost drivers, leading to the proposal for an aggregation and weighting of indicators in order to identify the transport-related sensitiveness of a region.
WP3 Mapping transport and related sensitive areas in the EU deals with the operationalisation of the criteria for transport sensitivity and impacts, notably in relation to data availability required for the mapping of the proposed criteria and indicators. This WP includes a review of the state of the art of available mapping techniques and methods, followed by an implementation at the European level utilising existing maps and statistical data. Areas or regions with specific sensitivity to one or more impacts originating from transportation will thus be identified, highlighting the spatial implication of transport policies related to TSA and the demand for spatially explicit policy instruments.
WP4 Analysing Policy Instruments starts with a review of experiences with policy instruments and foreseeable initiatives in the European Union and its Member States based on stakeholder interviews as well as novel, non-standard instruments for the protection of sensitive areas against transport impacts. Based on this overview, a selection of available instruments will then be analysed in more detail in their applicability to the categories of sensitive areas defined in WP1. This analysis will include instruments aimed at mitigating the impacts of existing as well as planned infrastructure for all transport modes. The final task of this WP is the bundling of policy instruments into adequate policy pack
The main achievements of this project relates to the:
- definition and classification of Transport Sensitive Areas (TSA);
- identification of policy instruments for TSA.
1) Definition and classification of Transport Sensitive Areas (TSA)
A first result of the project has been the definition and classification of TSAs and a set of criteria for identifying TSA.
According to the definition developed by the project, a TSA is “an area where the actual or potential presence of a transport route deteriorates the quality of the area clearly more than in another area, because the local impacts caused are particularly high”. The definition has been established as a twofold concept, which comprises areas that are generally vulnerable to transport pressures (VA) because of the presence of sensitive ecosystems, populated areas, heritage sites, etc., and areas where transport pressures would be significantly higher than normal due to environmental conditions (APT) (i.e., topographical steepness). VAs intrinsically define TSAs, while APT areas need also a certain character of vulnerability to become TSAs.
Transport related pressures (which cause impacts) for the identification of TSAs have been identified in air pollution, noise, infrastructure, and accidents, while as vulnerable categories (referred to as endpoints) have been considered the exposed population, ecosystems, landscape with recreational/touristic functions, and cultural heritage. The level of sensitiveness of a given area has been considered dependant on the actual pressure and, for a given pressure, on the level of impacts induced by such pressure.
Consequently, the steps to follow (referred to as check 1 and check 2) to check if a given area is a TSA consists in determining whether in the observed area:
- the vulnerability of endpoints is intrinsically higher than average (impacts and costs arising from a given level of pressure are higher than average);
- a given level of transport activity will generate higher pressure than average (there are conditions under which emissions and concentrations per vehicle km or infrastructure km are higher than average).
This two checks are made using a series of identified indicators (e.g. population density, topography, connectivity index, wind speed, etc.) and sensitivity thresholds for each transport related pressure and impact. The relevance and the usability of the selected indicators has been te
The methodology developed by the project for TSA assessment required additional knowledge and further research activities such as:
T1: While the GIS tool developed by the project already permits to usefully combine several indicators at varying scales of representation, additional and more detailed data at the local scale are needed in order to make a better use of the indicators themselves.
T2: The case studies have provided evidence on topics to be addressed by future research, such as research on the (positive or negative) interactions between policy instruments developed in a given area and those adopted in neighbouring areas and possible trade-off. There have been examples where the application of measures in a TSA results on undesired effects on neighbouring and other TSAs. This is a key issue for future application of the TSA concept, relevant for all types of TSA, and should be further explored. In the light of the heterogeneity of policies tested in the case studies, a first series of indications on the applicability of instruments to different types of TSAs have been achieved, but further research into the design of policy packages and implementation issues is required in order to avoid undesired impacts and optimise output.
T3: Further research is also necessary to identify suitable thresholds for several of the indicators proposed by the project, ideally leading to propose smart combinations of different indicators and thresholds to accurately define TSA using local scale data.
T4: It has been proved that few but well established indicators work very well in large areas. Topographic conditions, protected areas, and even population density seems to set up the general framework for regional scales in order to look for solutions at that level. General indicators are easily available, and present the minimum requirements for a TSA analysis and policy package application. A more detailed analysis of specific areas of interest could then be undertaken in order to check the assessment and redefine risks and costs.
T5: Large case studies with a transnational scope imply the intervention of administrations at national, regional and sometimes local level. In general, the institutional and organisational issues associated to the required level of collaboration between administrations and stakeholders groups needs further investigations.
The complexity of TSAs, involving different geographical scales and socio-economic contexts, and the limited number of case studies (that can be implemented along the lifetime of a research project) have prevented this project from providing straight and definitive conclusions on the most appropriate policy packages which can be implemented to address issues concerning TSA.
However, the analysis of the case studies revealed that:
P1: Simple and focused regulatory measures can be as effective in tackling the main transport related impacts as less socially accepted measures like pricing. This is also confirmed by more qualitative oriented assessments like in the Mediterranean case study. On the other hand, the analysis of the results of the case studies also suggested that great care has to be taken in the implementation of policy instruments in order to prevent undesired (side) effects, as the following:
P2: Focusing on one TSA or a single corridor inevitably fails to provide a full picture of impacts, because measures adopted at a single area/corridor level can lead to the redistribution of traffic between other corridors. Hence, the choice of the application area of a policy should take into account transport interdependencies as well as implementation costs and the legislative powers of implementing institutions. P3: A coordinated implementation is required, in particular in cross-border applications, in order to reduce overall transport volumes and avoid traffic diversion and relocation of environmental impacts. This is also true for smaller scale applications if more than one authority is involved.
The case studies also showed that:
P4: Accompanying measures (e.g. the use of revenues for extending the capacities of alternative modes) are necessary in order to improve acceptability (especially of fiscal and regulatory instruments) and to reduce undesired impacts. Extraordinary measures in the mountainous case studies can lead to a large shift of transport volumes from road to rail. The capacities for Alpine and Pyrenean crossing rail freight traffic have to be large enough to cope with the shifted transport volumes from road. It is also necessary to properly consider special measures for short haul transport, such as a price reduction for short transport distances, in order to limit the negative impact on regional commerce.
P5: A clear, harmonised definition of TSA is required to avoid arbitrary applications of the concept by