Sustainable and digital mobility: the centrepiece of the European economic recovery plan

EUROPE IS WORKING ON THE DESIGN OF A NEW DECARBONISED AND ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY ECONOMIC MODEL. THE EFFECTS OF THE PANDEMIC HAVE ACCELERATED THIS PROCESS WITH THE APPROVAL OF A HISTORIC INVESTMENT FOR RECOVERY AND JOB CREATION.

MUCH OF THIS FUNDING WILL GO TO TRANSPORT, WITH RAIL AS A PRIORITY TO REACH THE GOAL OF CLIMATE NEUTRALITY BY 2050. EACH MEMBER STATE WILL SUBMIT A PLAN TO BENEFIT FROM THESE FUNDS AND TO BUILD AN EMISSION-FREE, DIGITAL, CONNECTED, AND RESILIENT FUTURE.

The European Union is moving towards a revival with unprecedented financial stimulus. The impact of the pandemic has accelerated existing plans to achieve an ecological and digital transition that outlines “a new model of fairer, more resilient and more sustainable economy for future generations”.

To implement a joint and coordinated programme, in June 2020 the European Council gave the green light to the NextGenerationEU programme, with an investment of 750 billion euros. Within the framework of this plan, two financial instruments are launched. On the one hand, the European Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) that will support the 27 member states in their public investments and reforms through direct transfers and loans for economic recovery and employment. Spain will receive 140,000 million between 2021 and 2026, of which 70,000 million will be in the form of transfers. On the other hand, the “Recovery Aid for Cohesion and the Territories of Europe” (REACT-EU) has also been approved. In addition, there are additional items for other programmes and funds, including Horizon 2020 or InvestEU.

Historic investments in transport
This strategy requires a great economic effort that the European Union will assume through tools such as the Connecting Europe Facility. In July 2021, the European Parliament approved the update of the funds allocated to this programme for the period 2021-2027. Of the total budget, 25,800 million euros will be used to subsidize “projects proposed by states that work to achieve a much more efficient and less aggressive transport network with the environment”. In addition, special emphasis may be placed on their modernization, in order to make them safer.

On the one hand, 12,830 million euros of this mechanism are reserved to support “strategic investments”. 60% of this item will go to “Actions relating to efficient, interconnected, interoperable and multimodal networks”. In this section there is a specific allocation of 1,560 million euros that will be allocated to the completion of the main outstanding cross-border rail links between the member states that are eligible for funding from the Cohesion Fund.

The other 40% will be allocated to implement “smart, interoperable, sustainable, multimodal, inclusive, accessible and safe mobility from the operational and physical points of view”.

On the other hand, there are another 11,286, transferred from the Cohesion Fund, which will be used exclusively for The Member States eligible for funding from the Cohesion Fund. They are joined by a third item of 1,691 million euros aimed at adapting part of the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) for a dual use of transport infrastructure with a view to improving civil and military mobility.

One of the improvements of this multiannual mechanism in force until 2027 is that it expands the European corridors in Spain. In this way, it is now incorporated into Galicia, León, Asturias, Huelva, Teruel, Navarra, La Rioja, the Balearic Islands, and the Canary Islands.

In the Atlantic Corridor four new axes are added: Gijón -León -Valladolid, La Coruña-Vigo-Ourense-León,Zaragoza-Pamplona/Logroño-Bilbao, Tenerife/Gran Canaria – Huelva/Sanlúcar de Barrameda – Seville – Córdoba. Also, in the Mediterranean, the axis Madrid – Valencia – Sagunto – Teruel – Zaragoza are added. The coastal branch is also joined by Palma de Mallorca – Barcelona.

SUSTAINABLE AND SMART MOBILITY: PRIORITY OBJECTIVE

In this context, one of the main pillars of these investments focuses on investments in transport. The goal is to be the first climate-neutral continent by 2050 and to have a multi-modal zero emissions system. The emphasis on this sector is due to its relevance. Not only does it represent 5% of the European Union’s GDP, but it employs 10 million workers and is also responsible for 20% of total CO2 emissions.

The changes that are to be introduced are included in the “European strategy of sustainable and smart mobility”. It is a planning instrument that lays the foundations for designing a new digital, connected and environmentally friendly model. This transformation will be carried out through 82 initiatives identified as “priority work pillars” to be implemented in the coming years.
Among its main milestones, in line with the commitments of the European Green Deal, is the reduction by 90% of greenhouse gases by 2050 to achieve climate neutrality. To this end – among other measures – it is intended to double the high-speed rail traffic by 2030 and triple it by 2050. In this year we also want to double rail freight traffic.

In smart mobility, the goal is that within nine years there will be an integrated electronic multimodal ticketing system for passenger networks and that there will be a large-scale development of automation. Regarding the resilience section, the idea is that the multimodal Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) will be fully operational also in 2050.