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European Commission


Brussels, 17 September 2012

The urban dimension of EU transport policy

The EU transport policy

The Europe 2020 Strategy of 2010 highlighted the importance of an efficient and effective transport system for the future development of the European Union. Europeans should have access to mobility and transport services. These services should support a smooth functioning of the internal market, and minimise any burdens on the free movement of goods and people in the EU. Furthermore, the European transport system has to become more sustainable. We need to break the current dependency on fossil fuels, and it is imperative to reduce the negative impacts of transport on citizens' health and well-being, the climate and the environment.

The European transport system is highly complex and the responsibilities for its development, operation, and maintenance are shared between administrations at EU, national, regional and local level. Therefore, action at all these levels is required.

The urban dimension of the EU transport policy

In 2006, the mid-term review of the 2001 White Paper ‘European transport policy for 2010: time to decide’ concluded that efforts needed to be stepped up inter alia in the field of urban transport in order to reach key objectives of EU transport policy.

In 2007 the Commission presented the Green Paper "Towards a New Culture for Urban Mobility". This Green Paper marked the starting point for a broad consultation with all relevant stakeholders on possible EU action. The consultation confirmed the added value of EU-level intervention in a number of urban transport-related areas.

As a consequence, the European Commission published in 2009 an Action Plan on Urban Mobility1 with 20 concrete EU-level actions to be implemented by 2012. Subsequently, several initiatives were announced on urban transport in the 2011 Transport White Paper "Towards a single European Transport Area"2.

Public Consultation

The implementation of the Action Plan on Urban Mobility now draws to its conclusion and the Commission prepares to implement the initiatives proposed in the Transport White Paper. A review on the implementation of the Action Plan, including stakeholder consultations, is on-going and a final report will be delivered in the first half of 2013.

The European Commission also wishes to explore with the public and all other relevant stakeholders on how best to contribute with targeted EU-level action to high-quality and sustainable urban transport and mobility for all users in the 27 EU Member States. Therefore a public consultation will be launched on 17 September 2012 on the future development of the urban dimension of EU transport policy. The consultation will be open for 12 weeks until 10 December 2012. The public consultation pays considerable attention to the initiatives on integrated urban mobility as put forward in the Transport White Paper, including Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans, Access Restriction Schemes, including urban road user charging, and urban logistics.

Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans

It is widely held today that the development of ambitious, yet realistic local strategies, and the plans to support their implementation, are crucial starting points for improving performance and sustainability of urban transport systems. The concept of Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans3 received particular attention in the 2009 Action Plan on Urban Mobility. Several EU initiatives have been realised to establish and disseminate good practice for their establishment4.

The 2011 Transport White Paper observes that many cities have established Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans, but it is not yet the norm and this practice needs to be further encouraged. The Commission therefore proposes to establish a European framework for the development of Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans including procedures and support mechanisms. The Commission would not seek to prescribe top-down solutions, but to provide the competent authorities in the Member States at local level with a sound but flexible framework for urban transport planning and a strong support structure.

In the 2011 Transport White Paper the Commission also proposes to link access to regional development and cohesion funds for urban transport projects to the existence of validated Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans which give due considerable to the relevant EU policy objectives as identified above.

Access Restriction Schemes, including urban road user charging

Towns and cities across Europe are considering or have completed the establishment of urban Access Restriction Schemes5 in order to improve air quality, improve accessibility and reduce congestion, or to foster the development of alternative transport modes and the use of cleaner and more energy-efficient vehicles.

A study delivered within the Action Plan on Urban Mobility concluded that "Access Restriction Schemes are seen as a powerful policy instrument by most stakeholders groups, and that their potential in addressing the major challenges of urban sustainability is recognized as considerable." The study also concluded that the approach to the implementation of Access Restriction Schemes varies considerably across the 27 Member States.

The 2011 Transport White Paper announced the Commission's intention to tackle this issue by providing an EU-level 'framework for urban road user charging and Access Restriction Schemes and their applications, including a legal and validated operational and technical framework covering vehicle and infrastructure applications'. This framework would seek to address the modalities for the development of Access Restriction Schemes. Authorities at local level would retain their authority to decide on the appropriateness of an Access Restriction Scheme and to delimit the area under the scheme, to fix the amount of fees levied where a charging scheme is used, etc.

Urban logistics

Urban logistics is central to the efficiency and economic vitality of cities. However it is a much neglected area of urban transport planning. Passenger and freight transport are equally important, but the lack of integrated treatment causes many problems. There is consensus amongst all actors on the need for action. Under the Action Plan on Urban Mobility, the Commission launched a study to explore the scope for action for fostering more efficient and sustainable urban freight logistics. The study recommended "a set of policy measures such as the internalisation of external costs in urban areas, research into the support of zero emission vehicles and the application of ITS, investigation of standards for low noise freight vehicles and the availability of TEN-T funding for urban freight transport." The study also recommended "that urban freight transport plans should be part of sustainable urban transport plans".

The 2011 Transport White Paper announced the Commission's intention to produce "best practice guidelines to better monitor and manage urban freight flows" and to put forward "a strategy for moving towards 'zero-emission urban logistics'."

Way forward

The results of the public consultation and of the review of the Action Plan on Urban Mobility will provide the basis for a future Communication on the urban dimension of EU transport policy in 2013. In this Communication the Commission will explore further the initiatives on integrated urban mobility as put forward in the Transport White Paper. The Communication would be accompanied by a support framework for the development of Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans.

More information:



3 :

A Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan is 'a Strategic plan designed to satisfy the mobility needs of people and businesses in cities and their surroundings for a better quality of life. It builds on existing planning practices and takes due consideration of integration, participation, and evaluation principles'. Source:

5 :

Urban access restriction schemes are 'demand management strategies based on the concept of 'controlled access' which entails the more or less gradual interdiction of selected urban areas to motorised traffic' (source: Study on Urban Access Restrictions, Rome, December 2010). Existing types of urban Access Restriction Schemes are e.g. 'low emission zones', 'green zones' and 'congestion charging zones'.

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