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As our societies become ever more mobile, EU transport policy focuses on specific issues that affect all EU countries, like (road and air) traffic congestion, oil dependency, and greenhouse gas emissions. It is pursuing a strategy (and providing funding) to bring transport infrastructure up to a certain standard all across the EU, as well as seeking ways to help the European transport sector to compete on the fast-developing global market.

Major challenges facing the EU transport sector

As our societies become ever more mobile, EU policy seeks to help our transport systems meet the major challenges they are facing:

Two high-speed trains with the logos of various European railway companies on them © EU

New high-speed lines across the EU offer European citizens a safe, fast, comfortable and ecological mode of transport.

  • congestion affects both road and air traffic. It costs Europe around 1% of its annual GDP, and both freight and passenger transports are set to increase in the future.
  • oil dependency – despite energy-efficiency gains, transport still depends on oil for 96% of its energy needs. Oil will become scarcer in future decades, sourced increasingly from unstable parts of the world. By 2050, the price of oil is projected to be more than double what it was in 2005.
  • greenhouse emissions – by 2050, the EU needs to reduce its emissions in the transport sector by 60% (and by 80-95% overall) compared with 1990 levels if we are to limit global warming to an increase of just 2ºC.
  • infrastructure is unequally developed across the EU. For example, most Eastern EU countries lack purpose-built high-speed rail lines, and conventional railway lines are often in poor condition.
  • competition – the EU’s transport sector faces growing competition in fast developing transport markets in other world regions.

For an overview of statistics on transport see:
Connect to Compete: transport Infographics
Transport 2050: 50 facts and figures

EU achievements to date

Over the last 20 years, EU policy has helped the European transport sector achieve many advances:

  • safer skies, seas and roads
  • decent working hours for people working in the transport industry
  • more transport choices for travellers and businesses
  • less pollution
  • technological progress towards cleaner transport.

20 years of achievements in transport (brochure)

The effects of greater competition in the EU transport sector

Road – Trucks can now operate in countries other than their own, and so no longer return empty on international journeys. This new flexibility encourages competition, drives up the quality of both freight and passenger services, brings down costs and makes journeys more efficient thereby cutting pollution. Common technical standards have also improved safety levels.

Air – Flying is becoming easier and cheaper, with new airlines, more routes and hundreds of services connecting very numerous 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 any city into other countries. Open skies agreements have also been signed with the US, the Western Balkans, Morocco, Jordan, Georgia and Moldova – and more are on the way.

Rail – Any licensed rail company can now offer their services throughout the EU. The high-speed rail network has grown enormously in recent years, saving passengers time and money. Further improvements are on the way.

The future of rail in Europe (video)

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 work and move freely in other countries.

Passenger rights

The interests of travellers in the EU are protected by wide range of passenger rights.

Download your passenger rights (in your language) on your smart phone


  • The number of deaths on Europe’s roads was halved between 1992 and 2010 (from 70 000 to 31 000). EU road safety policy seeks to reduce this by a further 50% by 2020.
  • Unsafe airlines are banned from flying in Europe.
  • Tighter rules on maritime safety include tougher ship inspections, penalties for pollution caused through gross negligence, and faster phasing-out of single-hulled tankers.
  • The EU sets safety and security standards and only funds new infrastructure projects that meet those standards.
  • The EU works with organisations like the International Civil Aviation Organization and the International Maritime Organization to promote safety and security standards in the rest of the world.

Smart and sustainable transport

Traffic in London city centre © Shutterstock

London was the first capital to charge motorists entering its central district.

The EU supports research and effective deployment of new green transport technologies. New EU legislation will lower limits for carbon emissions from cars and promote better fuel efficiency and the use of alternative fuels.

Infrastructure and funding

The transport infrastructure section of the EU's Trans-European Networks policy aims at creating a multimodal "core network" linking major cities and bringing together the western and eastern parts of the EU. The EU's general approach to transport infrastructure also seeks to support other objectives, such as social cohesion and limiting climate change.

Transport infrastructure is funded by the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), which has a budget of up to €50 billion for 2014-2020, which will support the roll-out of high-performing, sustainable and joined-up trans-European networks in the fields of transport, energy, and broadband & digital services.

A new approach to transport charges is needed, alongside public funding, to create a fair financial environment, reflecting the "polluter pays" and "user pays" principle.




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