High price of bringing applicant countries’ networks up to speed

Series Title
Series Details Vol.7, No.20, 17.5.01, p19
Publication Date 17/05/2001
Content Type

Date: 17/05/01

The European Union faces a gargantuan task over the next several years helping applicant countries get their transport networks up to speed.

Ideally, trade will one day flow freely between east and west in an enlarged Union along new highways and modern trains.

Once and for all, borders that should have disappeared after the fall of the Berlin Wall will be rendered obsolete.

But the price tag for overcoming generations of neglect will be quite high: at least ?86 billion, according to the EU-funded Transport Infrastructure Needs Assessment (TINA).

The Union's wish list is mind-boggling: 18,353 kilometres of roads, 20,423 kilometres of railway lines, 38 airports, 13 seaports and 49 river ports.

This is seen as the bare minimum required for these countries to be connected with the West.

Transport lobbyists say that while investment in infrastructure is long overdue, they point out that this is just a part of the solution.

"You can have the best infrastructure in the world, but if there is a bottleneck you will not be able to use it properly," said Oleg Kamberski of the International Road Transport Union.

Trucks and trains are often held up by long lines at border crossings, and Kamberski believes that these countries must put more resources into training customs workers to reduce waiting times. He also questions the wisdom of giving most attention to rail, arguing that these networks are far denser than road networks in many of the candidate countries.

The TINA study, based on the results of two years of talks with the candidate countries, found that Poland's financial needs were greatest, with an estimated ?36 billion required over the next 15 years.

Improving the north-south Gdansk-Katowice railway alone is likely to cost nearly ?3 billion.

Another Commission report published last year identified more than 100 areas in which railways in 13 enlargement countries need to be improved.

Among other things, it called for the creation of autonomous railway safety and licensing authorities and urged rail firms to develop long-term investment plans.

The Commission has already pledged some funding to help upgrade transport infrastructure in the applicant countries - more than ?1 billion a year through its Instrument for Structural Policies for

Pre-accession (ISPA) financing arm through to the end of 2006.

Some of this money will also be used for environmental projects, which often overlap with transport.

But the bulk of the funding will have to come from the countries themselves as well as the private sector.

If history is anything to go by, this train will take a long time yet to leave the station.

Article forms part of a survey on European transport issues. The European Union faces a gargantuan task over the next several years helping applicant countries get their transport networks up to speed.

Subject Categories
Countries / Regions