Mark’s EU Week for Transport 
This week I want to focus on one thing, and one thing only: Mission Possible! How can we restore connectivity in Europe and the world, an essential prerequisite to economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, in a way that’s compatible with our sustainability, safety and above all our health objectives?

First of all we should pay tribute to all those working within the sectors that can’t work from home, including transport workers by rail, sea, air and road, going about their daily routine, putting themselves at risk, to keep us and the goods we need moving.  They’ve done and continue to do an amazing job. Thank you!

We all know we mustn’t drop our guard against COVID-19. A  second wave, or the re-emergence of the first wave, is just a few too many contacts away.  And yet we have to learn to live with this deadly virus for months or years to come. Until we discover a vaccine or effective treatments, recognising of course we may never discover either.

HIV/AIDS was first identified in 1984. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced at the time that they hoped to have a vaccine ready within two years. 36 years later, despite many trials of possible vaccines, a truly effective vaccine is still not available. In 2018, around 770 000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses worldwide. And so it may be with COVID-19.

Given all that we all know we need to restore economic activity, and that in turn requires a restoration of connectivity, by air, sea, road and rail, including urban passenger transport. Lockdowns and  social distancing are only short term solutions, particularly when it comes to transport. In the long term they won’t just wreak long term havoc economically and socially, but will contribute to an explosion of long term mental health problems and, as result of an inevitable massive increase in poverty and the neglect of other diseases, and deaths from other causes.  Moreover, the very foundations of our peaceful democratic societies may well be rocked to the core.

So how can we restore connectivity, mindful of our absolute obligation to prevent a second wave of COVID-19? But the challenge is even bigger. For we must do more than that.  We must be mindful of our absolute obligation to protect the planet, and fulfill our European Green Deal commitments, by ensuring the restoration of connectivity is sustainable.  We must also ensure it is inclusive, affordable and accessible. Safeguarding the terms and conditions of workers in the industry, and access for those of low incomes or with mobility impairments. Finally, we need to restore connectivity in a way that strengthens safety, mindful of the fact around 25,000 people are still killed on Europe roads every year.

That may sound like mission impossible. But I believe it’s Mission Possible. It has to be. It’s the biggest ever challenge faced by our generation. We have to throw our heart and soul, our creativity, innovation, and determination, at this problem. That’s why we at LP Brussels, and our partners at Luther Pendragon, are hosting a webinar tomorrow, bringing together three of Europe’s leading experts, to start developing solutions.

But we need to do it together. So do join us. Join us on this Mission Possible. If, as I’m sure it will be, our webinar is successful, we plan to repeat it, and continue our work at LP Brussels and with our partners, clients and friends,  contributing to the restoration of connectivity in a sustainable, safe and healthy way.

As Abraham Lincoln said, ‘Nothing in this world is impossible to a willing heart’.

And the all  important song of the Week! To lift our spirits we’ve chosen that great Pulp song and video from the Mission Impossible theme track: I Spy

1. Webinar: The European COVID-19 Roadmap and Recovery Plan 
Tomorrow, LP Brussels, the Secretariat to UK Transport in Europe, that represents many of Europe’s leading transports companies and organisations in Brussels, invites you to a webinar with Matthew Baldwin, Deputy Director of DG MOVE at the European Commission, on: ‘The European COVID-19 Road Map and Recovery Plan: How to ensure connectivity, sustainability, health and safety’. We will also be joined by two other experts in the field, Isabelle Ryckbost, Secretary General at ESPO, and Susanna Hauptmann, Specialist on Mobility Behaviour and Business Psychology at KapschTraffic.

2. Henrik Hololei exchange of views in TRAN Committee
Yesterday, Henrik Hololei had an exchange of views with MEPs in the Transport and Tourism Committee on the COVID-19 Transport Recovery Plan. MEPs Many MEPs highlighted in Monday’s discussion on the EU recovery plan and long-term EU budget for 2021-2027 that there is little indication on how much money will flow into the transport sector and what projects will be prioritised through the various financial instruments announced under Next Generation EU. “Transport deserves its fair share from the recovery plan and in the next long-term EU budget. It has been a key sector for decades and we have witnessed its relevance even more during the COVID-19 crisis. The sector should be supported significantly more,” said Committee Chair Karima Delli (Greens/EFA, FR). “The emphasis should be on railways, public transport and cycling. This is what citizens expect from us when focusing on sustainable mobility.” Henrik Hololei confirmed that the Green Deal, sustainability and the transport recovery plan are all mutually reinforcing initiatives and that the recovery must drive a greener and more resilient EU transport sector.

3. 24 European countries sign pledge to boost international rail routes
Last week, as Euractiv reports, twenty-four European countries agreed  to work together on international rail transport and make it “an attractive alternative” over distances where it is currently not competitive. Transport and infrastructure ministers from across Europe have said they want to build an “agenda for international passenger rail transport” using existing EU tools and fold those services into the bloc’s Green Deal in a “comprehensive way”. According to the joint letter sent to EU transport boss Adina Vălean, “international passenger rail transport is presently not performing to its potential within the EU. Domestic rail markets are much further developed.” The ministers cite the Green Deal’s carbon neutrality objective, the continued rise of greenhouse gas emissions from transport and the European Commission’s intention to declare 2021 ‘the year of rail’, among the reasons to double down on international services.

4. Transport ministers endorse carbon neutral shipping by 2050
Last week, transport ministers agreed on conclusions related to the shipping sector, giving their blessing to objectives such as carbon neutrality by 2050 and digitalisation efforts. The Council conclusions stress the vital importance of the maritime and inland waterway sector in bringing essential goods to European citizens, as highlighted by the key role played by the sector during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Council particularly commends the crucial role of seafarers, inland navigation workers and port workers in keeping the supply chains open. On alternative fuels for shipping, the conclusions state “the need to support the development of different alternative fuels for use in all segments of waterborne transport and to ensure adequate funding in support of research and development through public, private and EU financial instruments and grants with the aim to make available clean alternative fuels, including LNG as a transitional fuel, and the associated infrastructure, innovative technologies and sustainable ship designs”.

5. Will COVID-19 derail the European Commission’s climate agenda?
UKTiE Deputy Coordinator Ryan Hunter has written a  blog on whether the current COVID-19 crisis will derail the European Commission’s climate agenda. With the COVID-19 crisis taking hold all over Europe and the rest of the world, and it understandably becoming the European Commission top priority, there are questions being asked about the European Commission’s ability to deliver on the ambitious climate agenda present in its Work Programme for 2020. Does it have enough bandwidth, or will it be derailed?

6. UKTiE has also put together the latest timetable. We will keep this up to date as the process develops:

  • 16 June 2020 – Next meeting of the ENVI Committee
  • 23 June 2020 – Next meeting of the TRAN Committee
  • June 2020 – First High Level EU-UK Conference.
  • 18-19 June 2020 – European Council summit.
  • 1 July 2020 – Deadline for extension of the transition period.
  • 15-16 October 2020 – European Council summit.
  • 10-11 December 2020 – European Council summit.
  • 31 December 2020 – End of current Multi Annual Financial Framework.
  • 31 December 2020 – End of Transition Period (tbc).
Mark Watts
UK transport in Europe (UKTiE)
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