Transport in the Alpine regions of Central and Western Europe is politically a most sensitive subject. It has been a source of debates and uneasiness in bilateral and multilateral relations among countries and has led to widespread resistance against EU transport policy amongst the population in the affected regions. Not surprisingly, Trans-Alpine transport is a focal point for research both at the European and national levels. In view of important upcoming policy decisions, it is necessary to synthesise, concert and co-ordinate ongoing-work and to discuss open questions. This is the role of ALP-NET.
The overall aim of the ALP-NET thematic network was to outline policy and research recommendations for Trans-Alpine transport. This aim was achieved by analysing existing and ongoing research and providing a platform for networking among relevant actors in the field.
Leading up to the final ALP-NET conference, six experts workshops were organised on all important subjects associated with the issue of Trans-Alpine transport. The purpose of the final conference was to present the ALP-NET policy recommendations to policy makers, researchers and stakeholders and enter into a discussion with those experts on the findings of the project.
ALP-NET deals with four horizontal themes: methods and models, data and statistics and geographic information systems (GIS). To solve problems or to answer research questions, in many cases all these themes or phases are passed through. For example, when the impact of new infrastructure will be analysed, first a method has to be determined how to handle this problem, what work should be done, what results are expected, what models are necessary and most appropriate and what data is needed. So within a method a general framework is constructed of how to handle the problem in the best way. Next, models are used for the implementation of ideas from the method phase to generate specific results. Data and statistics are used as input for these models, but are also output of these models; especially models can generate data that are not available in existing statistics. Finally, GIS can be used to analyse and visualise the final results and to get more insight in the relations between different kinds of data and results. This example shows that the four themes are strongly connected with each other.
Influencing the Modal Split: The Potential of Intermodal and Combined Transport
1. The main problems of intermodal and combined transport are technical and organisational problems including
- The interoperability of rail services;
- The capacity optimisation of the existing systems;
- The lack of reliability which concerns primarily the railways;
- The insufficient construction of new terminals;
- Problems in efficiency of border crossing operations;
- The organisation of the rolling road and in this connection the role of base tunnels.
- The instalment of a supportive regulatory framework for the development of combined and in-termodal transport, which also allows for the financing of relevant infrastructure projects (railway, terminals, etc.)
The discussion of the potential of development of combined transport should technically distinguish between accompanied and unaccompanied transport.
2. Another major problem with regard the development of combined and intermodal transport concerns the notorious confrontational type of relation between rail and road.
3. Improving the quality and flexibility of the intermodal chain will be the only way to convince users and, in particular, shippers and road operators that combined transport is an alternative to road transport.
Pricing and Financing of Transport Infrastructure
4. Whether at the theoretical or more pragmatic and political level, there still exists no consensus on the method and the database to be used for defining the level and the structure of taxes and prices. This applies especially to the valuation of environmental externalities in general but in particular in environmentally sensitive areas where additional effects might have to be taken into account but also concerns:
- the degree of harmonisation of pricing structures and levels as well as charging technologies among the Alpine regions, but also between Alpine and non-Alpine regions;
- the incorporation of financing needs (for fixed costs of the infrastructure, but also for a possible cross-financing for other modes) into the pricing scheme;
- the modelling of the impacts of pricing on route and mode choice. A new framework directive is expected to clarify matters.
This is an opportunity for Alpine countries to explore their room for manoeuvre during the preparatory stage of this directive as well as durin
- No single policy instrument is sufficient on its own to overcome the problems faced by trans-Alpine transport. Thus whilst both combined transport and pricing promise to ameliorate the situation with regard to modal split, congestion and environmental externalities, their application needs to be combined and possibly also coordinated, spatially as well as temporally. The same is true for each policy instrument separately.
- Temporal coordination involves considering the phasing of policies in such a way so as to deal with immediate and short-term problems to the maximum extent possible (besides resolving problems in the longer-term). This also applies to the political decisions that are or should be upcoming in the near future regarding how to deal with the higher charges being proposed by the French government on the Italian-French crossing and the possible extension of the Austrian Ecopoint system until that time that a European charging system is realised.
- Spatial coordination involves a higher degree of collaboration among Alpine countries and regions so as to avoid the 'Not in my Back Yard (NIMBY)' syndrome whereby unilateral or bilateral decisions lead to an amelioration of the situation in a specific country or over one particular crossing but to no positive results, or indeed a worsening of the situation in another country or at another crossing. Such coordination should also consider the transport situation of specific countries - for instance, the higher current 'dependency' of Italy on the Alpine crossings for the transfer of goods.
- It is also important to consider the limits of the current policy proposals with regard to coping with the problems of Alpine transport. Combined transport and pricing promise to ameliorate the situation, yet they might not suffice even when combined and implemented in a comprehensive way. Both Switzerland and France have defined targets about the desired amount of traffic through their crossings and hope to achieve these through a set of measures, with pricing, rail development and combined transport at the core. Yet the question must be raised as to what happens if these targets cannot be met with the available policy options. What additional measures will (then) be necessary? The discussion suggested that additional measures could include
- the imposition of absolute limits (on the total amount of the transport volume across the Alps, or with regard to night and weekend bans);