With regard to transport, the free flow of goods and people in the European Union brings with it a need to explicitly consider and include the European dimension in transport planning, monitoring, and evaluation at all levels – European, Member State, regional and local.
The European dimension is important because both the implementation and realisation of benefits achieved through policy measures is only possible at the European level.
For example, the development of the trans-European transport network (TEN-T) requires collaboration among the European Commission and Member States, among different levels of government (European, national, regional, and local), and between public and private authorities.
Consideration of the European dimension requires consistent data on the flow of goods and people, covering all Member States and potential New Member States. Past work supported by the European Commission has pointed out the need for such a pan-European database, and the difficulties that are faced in evaluating policy without such a database.
To remedy this, the Commission has launched a cluster of projects to develop a European Transport Information System (ETIS).
Given the need for a tool to support policymakers, the European Commission has launched three projects within the ETIS cluster.
These projects, ETIS-BASE, ETIS-AGENT, and ETIS-LINK, aim to propose the methods and the tools for the development of a European Transport policy Information System.
The project will demonstrate the system applications through the development of a pilot system that will support the policies related to the development of the trans-European transport network. This pilot system will consist of a reference database (developed by ETIS-BASE) and a system interface (developed by ETIS-AGENT) capable of delivering information on a set of selected transport indicators for the TEN corridors.
A complete ETIS will provide:
- Data and information covering the EU 25
- A consistent and complete set of data
- Tools for accessing, retrieving and using this data and information
- Ready access to the most important indicators for monitoring certain policies.
In this context the role of ETIS-LINK is to guide and steer the development of the system and to promote the ETIS concept to potential users. It will help ensure the quality and usefulness of the system, smooth and swift consensus among the involved parties, and an effective up-take of the results by the Commission, Member States and other users.
ETIS LINK is doing so by assisting the steering committee, coordinating the developments of the three ETIS projects, organizing conferences and workshops, and disseminating the project results.
It will help ensure the quality and usefulness of the system, aiming at smooth and swift consensus among the parties involved, and support an effective up-take of the results by the Commission, Member States and other users.
- organises and supports an independent external Steering Group that strategically steers ETIS development.
- supports the development of the ETIS data base, the ETIS interface and integrate the work of other ETIS projects.
- involves potential ETIS users in the development process – attracting them by its potential, endeavouring to ensure their needs are taken into account, and working with a user group on the testing of the system.
- focuses on issues surrounding the implementation and sustainability of ETIS that are not being dealt with by the developers (e.g., legal, financial, organisational, and maintenance issues).
In practice this includes amongst others, the coordination of the three ETIS projects, the support of the Steering Group, the organisation of conferences and workshops, and the dissemination of the project results in edited newsletters and the project homepage (www.etis-link.info).
The result of the project is the Pilot ETIS (The European Transport Information System), which was presented at the Final Conference in June 2005.
The pilot was focused on the European Commission’s Trans European Network –Transport (TEN-T) policy, and includes the following components:
- a reference database with indicators, data variables and meta-data;
- a software environment for accessing, analysing, downloading and visualizing data;
- a methodology for updating data and constructing indicators;
- guidelines for the harmonization and validation of data collected by different providers, that are often following different underlying methods.
The pilot demonstrated the feasibility of ETIS while supporting transport policy-making at European level.
The projects have succeeded in attracting several Member States (Germany, Hungary, The Netherlands, Poland, Spain, France, Czech Republic etc...). They have stated their interest in getting access to ETIS and applying it to their own needs.
The decision whether and how to continue with ETIS rests with the EC. However, in the period between the completion of ETIS pilot and the final decision of the Commission regarding the future of ETIS, the Commission would be well advised to continue some ETIS activities. The minimum activities to ‘maintain’ ETIS could be to establish:
- an ETIS governance group, consisting of representative from all 25 Member States, EUROSTAT, and DG-TREN;
- an ETIS users group that meets twice a year to discuss various issues related to the contents of ETIS;
- a help desk for assisting users in installing, using, and understanding the ETIS software as well the contents of the database;
- an ETIS secretariat coordinating all ETIS related activities.
In order to fully exploit the benefits of this system and make progress towards the ETIS vision, an organisational and institutional framework for operating, updating, and expanding the ETIS pilot is required. There are a variety of issues related to this framework - where should ETIS reside? Should ETIS be hosted within or outside the EU’s institutions (e.g. EUROSTAT, Agency)? What is level of service that should be offered? Should the Commission provide for training users, for expanding the capabilities of the current ETIS?
The adoption of the pilot by national administrations is key for a successful and sustainable future of ETIS, not only as this would help to familiarize potential users with the system, but also because national bodies are important potential data providers and their support is essential for raising the quantity, quality and time responsiveness of information included in ETIS.
The EC needs to establish a process for regular updating and continuous improvement of the data quality. This will require support from the data provides as for the moment, data provision to ETIS is voluntary, therefore incentives should be provided. However, over time a legal basis could be created for providing data to ETIS.
Further enhancements of the system should be integrated stepwise to evolve the pilot towards a full-fledged support tool for the strategic transport planning; amongst others the inclusion of models and the automation of the updating should be considered in this respect.
The ETIS pilot is a complex expert system, thus, to optimise the exploitation of its capabilities in terms of content and software, the user needs to be sufficiently trained. Therefore, the EC should provide such a training to both its in-house users as well as to the users in the Member States.