Decision making on transport policy can be supported by the availability of a reference scenario. This can be defined as 'the projection of current trends for selected variables for a future horizon year.' Scenario preparation involves defining the present situation, analysing past trends, and then projecting these trends to a future year. Unlike 'contrasting' scenarios, alternative outcomes are not considered. The elaboration of such a reference scenario requires a detailed analysis of the dynamics of the entire transport system and the interaction with external factors.
The main aim of the SCENARIOS project was to develop a reference scenario for the European transport sector for the year 2020, covering:
- socio-economic variables;
- regional dynamics and spatial elements;
- factors affecting transport supply and demand;
- transport policy trends (e.g. European liberalisation and harmonisation policies).
The project also sought to develop projections of the evolution of technologies, not based on trends, but rather on the conditions for their entry to the market.
The reference scenario has been developed. For a 2020 horizon, GDP is expected to increase steadily, but population will decline slightly from around 2010, although with significant regional variations. The growth of cities is expected to continue, especially at the periphery. For passenger transport, anticipated trends are: increasing journey lengths, due to improved transport links and urban sprawl; increasing car dependency, due to ageing of the population, lifestyle changes and income effects; increasing long distance trips, due to globalisation of business and growing demand for international holiday travel. For freight transport, key influences are: globalisation of production and markets; networking to rationalise business processes; new information and communication technologies; 'greening' of the business context. Most of these influences point to an increase in freight transport, especially long-distance trips. Electronic commerce and 'green' pressures may slightly reduce the growth rate. The main conclusions concerning new technologies are as follows: Intelligent transport systems will have the most significant impact on transport in the year 2020. Their use for traffic and safety regulation will depend on European-wide agreement on standards and financing schemes. The contribution of intermodality will be a matter of improved organisation rather than technology, and will depend primarily on the extent of policy support. Information technologies (teleservices) are expected to play a key role in society as a whole, but not so much in the transport system. Teleworking and videoconferencing may become a substitute for some business traffic, but they may also foster traffic generation by making more time available. Magnetic levitation technologies are difficult to finance and environmental concerns are leading to the development of underground solutions. They will not have a significant influence on transport supply in Europe by 2020. Autonomous urban transport systems are expected to spread from 2010 onwards. This will follow the standardisation of telematic systems, especially automatic debiting systems, on which they rely heavily for operation.
SCENARIOS concluded that, in the current political climate in Europe, the most likely policy measures for transport involve demand regulation and pricing to alter modal shares. Support for public transport infrastructure seems less likely. SCENARIOS also defined a 'European trend policy scenario', assessing the effects of current policies on liberalisation and harmonisation. This policy scenario was applied in the European Commission's pilot Strategic Environmental Assessment of the trans-European transport network. For the road sector, the scenario showed a decrease or no change in costs under liberalisation policy, followed by an increase in costs due to harmonisation measures. For rail, costs will increase under liberalisation but remain stable under harmonisation.