EU transport policy deals with issues that affect all EU countries - road and air traffic congestion, oil dependency and greenhouse gas emissions. It provides funding to bring transport infrastructure up to the same standard EU-wide. Another concern is enabling Europe's transport sector to compete on the fast-developing global market.
As our societies become ever more mobile, EU policy seeks to help our transport systems meet the major challenges facing them:
New high-speed rail routes across the EU - safe, comfortable & environment-friendly
For an overview of transport statistics, see: Transport scoreboard
Transport infographics:EU transport in figures: statistical pocketbook
Thanks to EU policy, the last 20 years have seen considerable progress in Europe's transport sector:
Road – Lorries can now operate in countries other than their country of origin, and so no longer return empty on international journeys. This new flexibility encourages competition, drives up the quality of both freight and passenger services, cuts costs and makes journeys more efficient, thereby reducing pollution. Uniform technical standards have also improved safety levels.
Air – Flying is becoming easier and cheaper, with new airlines, more routes and hundreds of services connecting large numbers of airports across Europe. The EU's Single European Sky will help that trend continue. "Open skies" agreements allow any EU airline to fly from any EU airport to a city in another country. These agreements also exist with the US, Canada, Israel, the Western Balkans, Morocco, Jordan, Georgia and Moldova – and more are on the way.
Rail – Any licensed rail company can now offer its services anywhere in the EU. The high-speed rail network has expanded rapidly in recent years, saving passengers time and money. Further improvements are on the way.
Maritime – 75% of Europe’s trade with other countries and 40% of freight within Europe is moved by sea, and some 400 million passengers use European waterways every year. Opening up the maritime market has allowed shipping companies to operate and move freely in countries other than their country of origin. In 2014 the Council and the European Parliament agreed to promote by 2025 the development of a core network of liquefied natural gas refuelling points at the key maritime ports making up the trans-European network, plus shore-side electricity supply.
EU travellers' interests are protected by a wide range of passenger rights.
London - the first capital to charge motorists for entering its central district.
The EU supports research and the effective deployment of new green transport technologies. New EU legislation will expand the number of alternative refuelling points across Europe by setting out uniform standards for their design and use, including a standard plug for recharging electric vehicles.
A key aim of the EU's Trans-European Networks policy is to establish a network of different means of transport, thus linking major cities and bringing the EU's western and eastern regions closer together. Other important aims are to help even out gaps in prosperity and limit climate change.
Transport infrastructure is funded by the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), which has a budget of up to €50 bn for 2014-2020. This will help create efficient, sustainable and properly integrated trans-European networks for transport, energy, broadband, and digital services.
In addition to public funding, we need a new approach to transport charges to create a fair financial environment, reflecting the "polluter pays" and "user pays" principles.
Updated in November 2014
This publication is part of the 'European Union explained' series