Increasing Europe's Wellbeing Calls for Mobility


(Translation of an interview of Ari Vatanen , Transport supplement of Le Monde 11 July 2007)

MEP Ari Vatanen has a fighting spirit. The former world champion has set his new target on improving European mobility.

It all comes down to smooth logistics

In order to face the challenge of the rising economies like China and India, Europe needs to invest in becoming a strong economy. The technological innovations need to circle freely between knowledge clusters, but it is equally important that Europe is covered with a well functioning and continuous road network, so that rapid transportation of both people and goods is possible.

Why is this so?

The only way to ensure European competitiveness is to produce goods with high added value and to enable their production and distribution to take place rapidly. This applies both to finished products and components. However, politicians neither at national nor EU level are taking the preferences of consumers into consideration instead preferring imposing their ideologically tinged ideas.

You are chairman of "Mobility for Prosperity in Europe", an association characterised as "revolutionary". Is this a tribute to road transports?

More than that! I demand action in good old Bastille spirit: revolution in the way of thinking in order to make common good the only basis of decision-making. Our association denounces the plans of the Commission, as presented in the White Paper "European Transport Policy for 2010". It aims at discriminating against road and air traffic by favouring railways, traffic on water as well as intermodality (i.e. two or more integrated modes of transport combined). This approach however does not take into account of the users of transports. We have brought into play the famous revolutionary slogan: Liberty to move between places for professional or private motivations by using the most convenient means of transportation. Equality between transport modes - not favouring one to the detriment of others. Fraternity: no special interests should be promoted with tax-funded subsidies.

A former rally driver is naturally in favour of road traffic...

Only in favour of common sense! Currently 85% of trips in Europe are taken via roads, only 4% by rail. If the capacity of railways is doubled by means of immense subsidies, the amount of road traffic is only reduced by the amount which it normally increases over a period of two years. This would therefore be terribly expensive and inefficient. What is important is to reduce the negative side-effects of transports, not to reduce transports as such!

Cars however pollute...

First of all, modern vehicles only produce 5% of the emissions of the vehicles in the 80s, and the progress continues. On the contrary, the eco-friendly reputation of railways is to a certain extent a myth, since in most of Europe trains consume coal-produced energy.

...and improving the road network is also very expensive.

Currently the European Union uses under 100 billion euros on road infrastructure, whereas road users are taxed to the tune of some 330 billion. At the same time, the railways are funded primarily via public subsidies...
The European plan to spend two thirds of the total transport investments on a mode representing just 5% of the total transports is completely absurd.

Road safety concerns are an argument against the car

As a rally driver, security was always an absolute necessity for me, and perhaps also for this reason I was appointed rapporteur for road safety in the European Parliament. Cars are becoming much safer and efforts are made to make road users abide by the traffic rules. Yet there is still a lot to do in the field of road infrastructure. Railway is an excellent transportation mode, but - once more - it only stands for 5% of total transports.

As private persons and companies in the EU spend annually 20 times more money on road or air traffic in comparison with other existing modes, it clearly demonstrates that these two are the most competitive and adequate ways to respond to our ever-increasing mobility needs.

Back to the previous page