The guidelines for the development of the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) require the development of methods for strategic environmental assessment (SEA) of the network and individual corridors (Decision 1692/96/EC). This is to ensure that the full environmental impacts of the policy initiative are assessed, and not just the impacts of individual sections of infrastructure. In response, the Commission co-ordinated a number of research actions to perform a pilot SEA of the TEN-T using existing techniques. However, it was also apparent that new approaches (such as life-cycle assessment) and new technologies (such as remote sensing) offered potential for improving the SEA procedure.
The aim of INTERNAT was to identify priority research areas for the development and demonstration of improved methods and tools for SEA, with special attention to the spatial component in impact analysis.
INTERNAT has assessed the potential for new and improved methods as part of an integrated tool for SEA in the following areas:
- evaluation of the impacts of transport infrastructure on the landscape, differentiating different types of landscape according to their value and vulnerability;
- the use of indicators for spatial impacts, such as land take, noise, pollutant emissions and visual impact;
- the choice of methods for cumulative impact analysis, designed to take account of long-term effects and existing conditions (such as global warming, forest die-off and development of new settlements in response to easier access);
- the integration of recent standards for life cycle analysis (defined in ISO14040) into SEA methods, to take account of the environmental impacts of the production and disposal stages in a product's life as well as its use;
- combining remote sensing for data capture with geographic information systems for data handling;
- the modelling of the effects of terrain gradients on vehicle emissions.
In developing the state-of-the-art in these fields, INTERNAT has:
- proposed indicators for impacts on landscape;
- proposed a framework for cumulative impact assessment within the SEA methodology for the TEN-T;
- developed prototype software for the use of a geographic information system in SEA, applicable on EU (network), regional and local (corridor) levels;
- demonstrated that digital representations of the elevation of terrain can be combined successfully with representations of transport networks and corridors for the purpose of emissions modelling.
INTERNAT has identified new techniques and methods that can be used to broaden the scope of SEA, so that it gives a broader and more accurate assessment of current and future impacts of the TEN-T.
The project highlighted the need for research to develop complex spatial models of biodiversity, as this is an important area of impact assessment for SEA where standardised and user-friendly methods are missing. In addition, more spatially detailed databases are needed on land use, and quality control procedures should be used to ensure consistency between different databases. Further work is needed to make lifecycle and cumulative impact analysis methods practical.