Radical EU transport plan unveiled

Petrol and diesel-driven cars should be banned from cities across Europe by 2050 to slash dependence on oil and tackle climate change, the European Commission said today.

A sweeping transport plan to be put to EU governments insists that phasing out "conventionally fuelled" cars by then is not an assault on personal mobility.



Coupled with proposals and targets covering road, rail and air travel, the Commission says its transformation of the European transport system can increase mobility and cut congestion and emissions.



EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas said: "The widely held belief that you need to cut mobility to fight climate change is simply not true.



"Competitive transport systems are vital for Europe's ability to compete in the world, for economic growth, job creation and for people's everyday quality of life."



He insisted: "Curbing mobility is not an option; neither is business as usual. We can break the transport system's dependence on oil without sacrificing its efficiency and compromising mobility. It can be win-win."



He was unveiling plans adopted by the Commission today for a Single European Transport Area, intended to set up "a fully integrated transport network which ... allows for a profound shift in transport patterns for passengers and freight".



The measures the document proposes, says the Commission, could "dramatically reduce Europe's dependence on imported oil and cut carbon emissions in transport by 60% by 2050".



Its key goals by 2050 are:



* No more conventionally fuelled cars in cities;



* 40% use of sustainable low-carbon fuels in aviation; at least a 40% cut in shipping emissions;



* A 50% shift of medium distance inter-city passenger and freight journeys from road to rail and waterborne transport.



The document says that by 2050 the majority of medium-distance passenger journeys - those above about 300 kilometres (186 miles) - should be by rail.



More than half of road freight travelling more than 300 kilometres should move to rail or boat (30% by 2030).



All core network airports should be connected to the rail network by 2050, with all core seaports "sufficiently connected to the rail freight and, where possible, inland waterway system".



For longer-distance travel, and intercontinental freight, air and sea travel will benefit from "new engines, fuels and traffic management systems (which) will increase efficiency and reduce emissions", says the document.



The use of low-carbon fuels in aviation should reach 40% by 2050, with a complete modernisation of Europe's air traffic control system already achieved by 2020 to deliver the "Single European Sky".



For urban transport, the Commission calls for 50% shift away from conventionally fuelled cars by 2030, phasing them out altogether in cities by 2050.



The aim is to achieve "essentially CO2-free movement of goods in major urban centres by 2030".



A huge goal is that by 2050 Europe should "move close to zero fatalities in road transport", with an interim target of halving all road casualties by 2020.























Matthew Knowles, spokesman for the UK defence and security trade organisation ADS, said: "The UK aviation sector - aerospace manufacturers, airlines, airport operators and air traffic managers - has signed up to the sustainable aviation initiative.



"Our CO2 roadmap demonstrates how we will use new technologies to meet the predicted threefold rise in passenger demand to 2050 while simultaneously reducing our CO2 emissions back to 2000 levels.



"An example of progress from manufacturers is the Airbus A380, which in standard, three-class configuration travels 100 passenger kilometres on three litres of fuel, where the average hybrid car needs four litres.



"We are confident we can meet our environmental obligations while continuing to support economic growth because both of which are vital for our future."













Friends of the Earth's transport campaigner, Richard Dyer, said: "Weaning our transport system off its oil addiction is essential to protect people from soaring fuel prices and the planet from climate change. We're all paying the price for a transport policy that's been heading in the wrong direction for far too long.



"Phasing out cars that run on fossil fuels from cities is a good way to kick-start action. But despite these headline-grabbing proposals, the emission reduction targets in the plan lack ambition."



He went on: "Commercial biofuels are not the answer. There's growing concern that commercial fuel crops imported into Europe are destroying forests, driving people off their land and generating more emissions than they save.



"Instead we need better public transport, smarter cars that use less fuel and more walking and cycling for shorter journeys.



"And our planning systems must be overhauled to reduce the distances people need to travel for work or essential services."











Friends of the Earth transport campaigner Richard Dyer said it was essential to wean the transport system off its "oil addiction", adding: "Phasing out cars that run on fossil fuels from cities is a good way to kick-start action - but despite these headline-grabbing proposals the emission reduction targets in the plan lack ambition.



"Commercial biofuels are not the answer - there's growing concern that commercial fuel crops imported into Europe are destroying forests, driving people off their land and generating more emissions than they save.



"Instead we need better public transport, smarter cars that use less fuel and more walking and cycling for shorter journeys.



"And our planning systems must be overhauled to reduce the distances people need to travel for work or essential services."



UK Independence Party transport spokesman Christopher Monckton said the commission's plans were "in the realms of fantasy".



He added: "They want to ban cars from cities, they want to force everybody on to rail and canals - it is as if they have been taken over by the shade of the Victorian engineers.



"Of course they also want to 'move close to zero fatalities in road transport' - and of course if they ban vehicles they may go some way to achieve this - but at what cost to liberty and freedom?"



"They may as well call for an end to wars and large subsidised chocolate cakes for pre-school infants."



The European Twowheel Retailers' Association welcomed the plans but said the role of two-wheelers in helping cut emissions had been overlooked.



"Given that a quarter of CO2 emissions from transport occurs in cities, it is unfortunate that the European Commission doesn't give a bigger role to existing low-carbon options such as traditional and electric bicycles and electric scooters, mopeds and motorcycles." said ETRA secretary general Annick Roetynck.



Promoting two-wheelers could help achieve the phase-out of conventionally fuelled cars in cities by 2050: "This will help respond to the issue of land use and reduce congestion, which will not be solved by a shift to cleaner cars."



AA president Edmund King said the plans would confuse motorists: "Drivers don't know whether they're coming or going with environmental measures - one minute they're supposed to be cutting CO2 and switch to diesel, the next they get pilloried and taxed for doing just that.



"The reality is that, by 2050, fossil fuel will be so expensive that a new approach to personal mobility will be inevitable."



A commission spokesman insisted the aim of phasing out conventionally fuelled cars by 2050 would be met by boosting research and development into alternatives, and by promoting other policies encouraging a switch away from petrol and diesel vehicles: "We believe this is fully in line with UK policies."







RAC motoring strategist Adrian Tink said the commission plan was "a laudable aim" and ultimately inevitable.



"Anyone who's paying over £6 a gallon at the petrol pump will agree with the need to shift to alternative fuels for transport.



"The problem, at a time of government cuts and tough economic times for many people, is seeing where the massive investment to make this vision a reality is going to come from."



He went on: "We're scratching the surface with many of the alternatives at the moment, and until the technology becomes more mature and the price more affordable, it's difficult for the ordinary motorist to decide upon which bandwagon to jump."

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