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Vice President of the European Commission
10th European ITS Congress
Helsinki, 16 - 19 June 2014
Ladies and gentlemen
It is a pleasure to be with you today in Helsinki at the 10th European ITS Congress.
From my first day as European transport commissioner, I have been keen to support intelligent and innovative transport solutions that have a strong focus on customer service.
It is also clear that there is a solid European commitment to transport innovation, as shown by the activities of several leading cities and regions, Member States and not least the European industry itself, including ERTICO of course.
Thank you for this.
When it comes to future transport and ITS policy, I am often asked two questions that I would also like to put to you today:
1 The first question - Why is ITS relevant for Europe?
It is difficult not to be fascinated by new gadgets and the amazing technology and service opportunities that ITS promise. But we risk losing sight of what these new tools are supposed to achieve. I know myself that it’s all too easy to be blinded by novelty.
Can ITS really prepare our transport system for meeting an ever growing demand for mobility? I think it can: but only if we stay focused on solutions and feasibility.
I found a particularly intriguing sentence in today’s congress invitation papers. It said: "The transport system including vehicles, infrastructures and the related industries is the biggest ecosystem humans have ever created."
This makes a good point. But why does it sound so surprising? Transport is too often taken for granted. Even worse, it is mainly seen for its negative impact: congestion, delays, cost, emissions, and especially for low service levels. All true: but it’s not the complete picture.
Transport plays an essential role as the cornerstone of any country's economy and as the heart of its supply chain. We can see this well reflected in Finland’s own ITS strategy.
So, going back to the sentence I just quoted, I would like to take the view of the transport network as the "physical internet".
It sends people and goods around the world and connects almost every dot together. And it does so rather effectively - although not always in the most efficient or economic way.
The reason is that it is in danger of being the victim of its own success: a bit like an overstretched email server. It is also under financial pressure because of shrinking public budgets. This is why it is essential to improve transport performance and increase productivity.
In the same way as most people are not really bothered about how their email gets to its destination if only it goes through safely, transport users mostly care about whether their journey is comfortable, safe, affordable and, above all: flexible and reliable. This applies both to individual travellers and to companies shipping goods.
Now is the time to upgrade this "physical internet" by adding an obstacle-free information flow – ITS.
This is how we can fully connect today’s patchwork of national and modal systems and transform it into an affordable "broadband physical internet". But we need do it jointly.
We can do this by improving vehicle safety and data quality.
We can do this by improving traffic information and management within the different forms of transport as well as along the supply chain.
It will encourage and empower transport users to make transparent choices for their individualised services and door-to-door journeys, conforming to their changing needs, whether they are price, time or the specific demands of the elderly or the disabled. Nobody should live as a person with "limited mobility".
Europe is a world leader in transport technology - in all the traditional modes but also in logistics and other innovative transport-related services.
The world and its societies are changing rapidly. The better European companies can respond to transport business opportunities worldwide, the better we ensure continuous technology and business leadership in Europe – together with quality jobs.
That is a long way of answering the first question of why ITS is relevant for Europe. It is because it lies in the best interests of ensuring sustainable transport development and employment in Europe.
Ladies and gentlemen,
2 The second question – What can we do to support ITS deployment?
Traditionally, European ITS policy was focused on roads. Rightly so, because of the need to catch up with other transport modes and because of the many users and varying local needs. Pushing ahead with road ITS remains a major priority.
We remain fully committed to delivering on the workplan of the ambitious ITS directive.
You will all be aware of progress made with the Public Safety Answering Point infrastructure that is needed for the proper handling of eCalls. Soon, eCall will be available for everyone in the EU, and will help us significantly in our work to halve European road deaths by 2020 and reduce the number of serious injuries.
Other sets of specifications promote the roll-out of intelligent information services. Real-time warnings about dangerous road conditions ahead, for example, or information on safe and secure parking places for truck drivers.
A major innovation of the ITS directive was its opening to other transport modes, fully in line with our integrated approach on "Connected mobility".
For passengers, this means supporting truly multi-modal journey planning and ticketing services. For freight transport, it means supporting integrated logistics.
Cities and regions need strong and integrated traffic information and management tools.
The difficulty is not to agree on the benefits of integrated transport data and services.
The difficulty is much more about how we can get there faster, not make so many expensive errors or skirt around massive barriers. This is not about single “grand design” solutions – because our policy is really not about that.
The better solution will win through – and it will come as the result of the innovative power of individuals, institutions and companies, with the market as the place where they come together.
One of my driving principles in transport policy has been to remove barriers and ensure interoperability. Not only physical barriers, but also more hidden ones such as barriers to efficiency, fairness and transparency.
There is one particular example here that I have long championed: genuine EU-wide multimodal travel information, planning and ticketing services. Why is it taking so long for them to emerge?
Access to data is essential. Not in a totally blanket sense with no operator control. But equally, data should not be controlled unduly, where there is a risk of non-competitive abuse by privileged parties. The experience with open access to data has be a major success, where it has been attempted. In France, in the UK, in Norway, to name but a few.
I believe we now agreed a clear list of challenges – and how to tackle them. We have just finalised a roadmap towards a major initiative, later this year, to improve the accessibility and availability of multimodal travel and traffic data in the EU.
Lastly, let me mention e-Freight, which will simplify the way information is exchanged along the whole supply chain.
E-Freight means reduced costs - because the same information will no longer to be entered repeatedly into different systems when changing between modes of transport, or crossing borders.
It will mean more transparency in transport services. It will mean optimised goods routing and increased vehicle load factors, thanks to real-time information on the location of goods and on traffic conditions.
In the next few months, we will outline our wider vision for e-Freight with concrete steps forward.
Ladies and gentlemen
All this wonderful new integrated and "smart" transport world must be "done" by somebody. That “somebody” has to be companies, whether an established multinational or a small university start-up.
That’s where the imagination and driving innovation has to come from. It is not for the European Commission to provide solutions and services – I hope that I have made that clear.
Our role is to tackle the main blockages and make sure that "connected mobility" really happens. The need to ensure reasonable access to transport data for third-party developers is a prime example.
It is in the same interest in mind that we look for stronger international cooperation, particularly with our main industrial and political partners around the world. If we can manage to agree on a few basic standards, then the sector avoids risky and expensive investments and can fully focus on competing for the best innovative services.
This is in the best interest of a sustainable European transport system, and of sustainable economic development and employment in Europe.
Thank you for your attention.