In the transport sector, research is an essential support to policy-making, ensuring that the most effective measures are adopted in support of economic, social and environmental goals. But this research is often split between various European, national, industry-based and academic programmes, and is divided into specialist projects. Such fragmentation calls for integrative analysis to pull together the 'big picture' and the key conclusions, and to present these to policy-makers in a succinct way. For this reason, the European Commission has funded a number of Concerted Actions and Thematic Networks.
The aim of the PASTEUR Concerted Action was to create a discussion platform between policy-makers and researchers at national and European levels, and to structure and synthesise research results. This covered the fields of policy assessment, transport economics, scenario analysis and technology integration. Two out of four planned meetings were held.
PASTEUR focused on policy towards sustainable mobility, and identified four issues that require attention at present:
- Complementary measures to pricing. Pricing plays a central role in EU and Member State policies on transport, involving the reform of charging mechanisms and levels to maximise economic efficiency. But it is also recognised that a package of measures is needed, in order to achieve a broad range of policy objectives in a cost-effective way. PASTEUR concluded that greater knowledge is needed of measures complementary to pricing, their impacts and the way they can be used together. For example, people need to be convinced of the effects of measures before they will accept them.
- Targets and translation to lower levels. It is relatively easy to agree general measures and targets at a strategic or high spatial level, such as a reduction in traffic accidents across the EU. The challenge is to identify how to make an acceptable translation of these measures and targets to a lower level, where stakeholder opposition and local policy priorities may hinder the practical implementation of sustainable mobility. Therefore the EU may need to define the overall structure for "delivering" strategic outcomes.
- Information society and behavioural issues. PASTEUR found that there remains a high level of uncertainty over the impacts of the information society on mobility, requiring further research.
- Air traffic and leisure traffic. Transport forecasts suggest there will be an enormous growth in air traffic and in leisure traffic (to a large extent by air). Policies are not yet prepared to cope with this growth - in terms of traffic management and the impacts on regions attracting tourist flows. The consensus emerged that international co-ordination will be needed to address these issues.
One of the key conclusions from PASTEUR is that, if research aims to support policy-makers, they must be involved at all stages of the work. This means making sure that projects are effectively targeted on policy questions at the start, and that they evolve in line with (changing) policy needs as the work progresses. Closer contact between researchers and policy-makers may well be required in the large and long-running projects of the EU Framework Programmes.