By Andrew Bodman with assistance from Madeleine Wahlberg
The European Commission wants to create a unified transport network (roads, railways, airports and canals) across Europe. The “Core” network consists of ten transport corridors which need to be completed by 2030. In addition there will be a “Comprehensive” network supporting the Core network which is scheduled for completion by 2050. This unified transport network is known as TEN-T.
Core corridor 8 is Dublin – London – Paris – Brussels and includes HS2. It also includes upgrading of the line from Swansea via Cardiff and Bristol to London. Core corridor 2 includes improvements from Felixstowe to Manchester and Liverpool by both rail and road.
A press release from a TEN-T meeting last October started as follows:
The Commission has today adopted a proposal to transform the existing patchwork of European roads, railways, airports and canals into a unified transport network (TEN-T). The new core network will remove bottlenecks, upgrade infrastructure and streamline cross border transport operations for passengers and businesses throughout the EU. It will improve connections between different modes of transport and contribute to the EU’s climate change objectives.
Later it advised:
The 31.7 billion euros allocated to transport under the Connecting Europe Facility of the MFF (Multi-Annual Financial Framework) will effectively act as “seed capital” to stimulate further investment by Member States to complete difficult cross-border connections and links which might not otherwise get built. Every 1 million euros spent at European level will generate 5 million from Member State governments and 20 million from the private sector.
It should be noted that for Core corridor projects to qualify for “seed capital” from the European Commission, the projects must be completed by 2030.
A press release from the more recent meeting of 22-23 March 2012 contains the following:
The text agreed upon allows member states not to implement certain projects if the financial resources required are not available or if the projects are not mature enough. Moreover, an amended review clause stipulates that the Commission will take into account the economic and budgetary situation in the EU and in individual member states when evaluating progress made in the implementation of the guidelines by the end of 2023.
While the proposed new double-layer structure distinguishing between a core network to be put into place as a priority and a comprehensive network to be completed later on has been accepted by member states, the core network corridor concept, intended to facilitate implementation of the core network, has been reviewed in order to cut the administrative burden and guarantee national sovereignty rights.
This raises two interesting points. Firstly there is some recognition of the poor state of the economy in Europe. Secondly the discussion of sovereignty indicates that the European Commission has endeavoured to be a driving force rather than just a coordinating body. This view is confirmed by the earlier remarks about allowing member states not to implement certain projects.
So the driving force behind HS2 is not just David Cameron, it is also the European Commission in Brussels. However let us not forget the use of the word no (or non) is still possible. Poland announced last December that it was shelving plans for a 480 km high speed rail network. More recently in March, Portugal cancelled plans for a high speed rail link from Lisbon to the Spanish border which would ultimately have linked to Madrid.
We read of the ever worsening benefit cost ratio for HS2 which is now down to 1.2. We are conscious of the UK’s worsening national debt to GDP ratio which at 84.6% is worse than that of Spain. Surely it is time for the Government to reconsider its decision on HS2?
There are also some serious political ramifications of the EU’s TEN-T programme – like who will be responsible for running the “Core” routes.