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THE EU COVID-19 Recovery Plan and transport infrastructure

Date
Place
Brussels

FERRMED warmly welcomes President Ursula von der Leyen's speech to the European Parliament plenary on the 13th May last.

In particular, it is to be welcomed that, in addition to the actions that may be included in the corresponding annual budgets, an ambitious Recovery Plan is proposed, to be controlled by the European Parliament.

FERRMED's position is that this Plan be managed directly by the Commission and strictly implemented following socio-economic and environmental criteria, in accordance with the directives of the European Green Deal

Within this Recovery Plan, transport infrastructure must play a significant part, due to its impact on the economy and the environment.

FERRMED is working hard on the so-called FERRMED Study of Traffic and Modal Shift Optimization in the EU, the results of which may be a key tool to achieve the best "investment to results" ratio for the actions to be carried out on the global logistics chain. Unfortunately, to date, this favourable ratio has largely not been met by the actions taken by Member States.

It is necessary once and for all to put an end to investments of a political or extravagant nature and to have a properly structured Investment Plan, in accordance with the socio-economic and environmental priority criteria approved in advance by the European Commission and Parliament.

These initiatives must be in line with the objectives of the Commission's White Paper on Transport. We need to act where there really is traffic and not where the socio-economic and, particularly, environmental impact is negligible or even null.

The first phase of the Study, involving fact-finding on the zones of the whole "EU Core Network", where it is necessary to act pre-eminently, will be finished by the end of this year and the complete Study, which will specify actions to carried out on the railway network and on the waterways, together with an assessment of favourable economic and environmental impact, at the end of 2021.

The provisional results already available from the first phase of the Study for some countries, give a clear picture of the sections of the railway network requiring investment, if it is intended that by 2030 the railway and the barge bear 30% of land traffic for distances greater than 300 km. It should be borne in mind that in southern European countries rail freight traffic is extremely low. In the case of Spain, railway traffic today does not reach even 3% of the total (road plus rail) in many sections.

Continuing with the example of Spain, it is clear from the data we already have that the investments that are being carried out in the Mediterranean Corridor are insufficient and that if we do not act quickly to restructure existing plans in the areas of greater saturation (around Barcelona and Valencia), gridlock, following the implementation of international gauge on the current lines, is guaranteed in a period of two to four years.

The actions proposed by the FERRMED Study for the whole of Europe include short-term (2023), medium-term (2025) and long-term (2030) actions. Continuing with the case of Spain, short-term actions must include connections to intermodal terminals and ports on the international gauge. (A flagrant case is the Llagosta terminal which, after several years of having an international gauge line to the border, is still not interconnected and it is unclear when exactly this connection will be made.

To repeat, we welcome a Recovery Plan which is appropriately structured and supervised at European level and which accelerates the attainment of positive results as soon as possible throughout the European Union.