Developing a European transport policy to deal with trans-national problems such as environmental damage and congestion on regional links requires statistical tools to monitor patterns of mobility. However, the basic data are often missing and national data sets are often inconsistent. In particular, there is a lack of data on international flows, Trans-European Networks, new logistic services, transport chains and intermodality. Moreover, software tools are needed to combine and analyse the available data in a decision-useful form. Therefore, the European Commission is promoting the development of a European Transport policy Information System (ETIS). ETIS is intended to support decision-makers in both public and private sectors in understanding changes in mobility, logistic patterns and the effects of policy measures.
The aim of MESUDEMO was to identify and recommend methods for compiling and processing information on transport networks and on flows of goods and passengers as part of ETIS.
MESUDEMO proposed a general architecture and structure for ETIS and a process for its development. A critical conclusion underlying the methods put forward is that data can best be supplied at the national level, but processed at different levels, rather than being assembled into a single centralised and fully harmonised data system. The data architecture should be based on the (top-down) policy questions to be addressed, while working within the (bottom-up) constraints of data availability.
The suggested form of ETIS is that of a network of interconnected co-operating systems, allowing access to external databases, processing that data to create a structured core database, and supporting the analysis and viewing of subsets of data that relate to specific policy issues at regional, national and European levels.
MESUDEMO recommended that Geographic Information Systems should be used for the visualisation of data, and not for the internal organisation of the data core. Agreement will be needed with Member States on a unique and unambiguous coding scheme for identifying each network link and node in the data core, rather than using geo-referencing.
Pilot studies found that existing national data are too heterogeneous to be harmonised and too scarce to provide European coverage at a satisfactory level of geographic detail for ETIS. Therefore, some effort will be needed to encourage countries to enrich and adapt their present systems of data collection. There are also problems with the confidentiality of operators' data to be overcome. Nevertheless, trade and transport databases were successfully harmonised in a demonstration tool focused on trans-Alpine traffic.
MESUDEMO concluded that national backing for ETIS is essential, as data will mostly be compiled at that level. However, ETIS will still have to cope with incompatible data collected to meet specific national interests, and therefore should provide data translation facilities. In addition, ETIS should be developed as a set of methods and open and adaptive computational tools, able to cope with changes in policy issues, information technologies and availability of transport databases.
Preparatory actions for ETIS by the European Commission would include the creation of a data dictionary, defining a basic common set of transport terms that corresponds to the policy issues to be addressed. A permanent solution is also needed for the institutional arrangements to create and maintain ETIS.