Questionnaire-based study on climate-centered regulation of flight and expansion of train operations within the EU: Report of the Danish survey
The climate-driven and flight-critical network Stay Grounded, working on a global level, includes 102 organizations and groups including Preserve the Earth Connection, NOAH and the Council for Sustainable Transportation in Denmark. Stay Grounded is conducting a study in advance of the European Parliament elections in May, which should give an idea of the views of political parties in a number of EU countries on the expansion of cross-border rail services in Europe and flight limitation.
The study is carried out in collaboration with the Back on Track network, which works for better and faster train connections across borders in Europe as an alternative to the continued growth in the number of climate-damaging flights. The study is based on a set questions distributed to political parties and candidates in a number of EU countries. In Denmark, the Council for Sustainable Transportation has been responsible for undertaking the survey including the distribution of questionnaires to the candidates, which the Danish political parties have nominated for the EU election.
The questionnaire-based survey intends elucidating the position of the nominated candidates on a number of current issues addressing flight, flight-damaging effects, air fares, short-haul flight ban, the need for increased flight regulation, the liberalization of the European railway market, the development of train networks across European borders and problems with the infrastructure for high-speed rail in the EU. Therefore, we requested parties in Denmark, which have nominated candidates for the European elections in May, to answer nine numbered questions, some of which included focused sub-questions that could be answered by ticking checkboxes.
The inquiry including the questionnaire was distributed by e-mail to all candidates nominated by the parties participating in the EU parliamentary elections: The Alternative, the Conservative Party, The Danish People’s Party, The Liberal Alliance, The Liberal Party, The Social Democratic Party, The Social Liberal Party, Socialist People’s Party and the Unity List – the Red-Green Alliance. A total of 25 completed questionnaires were received, representing all parties except the Liberal Party and the Danish People’s Party.
Findings of the survey
1. Since air travel is the most climate-damaging mode of transportation – both because climate impact per passenger kilometer is very high, and because flights allow you to travel very far in a short time – which initiatives and measures would you suggest to get more people to take the train instead of booking seats in the airplane for travels within the EU, which have a length of up to 1,000 kilometers?
One of the nominated candidates articulates a liberal viewpoint: “I do not think we should limit people’s personal freedom in pursuit of some cheap climate points in that way. But high-speed trains and night trains should be a real option when traveling in Europe. Tax on air tickets and cheaper train tickets could be considered steps in that direction.”
However, since the majority of the submitted questionnaire responses come from candidates representing green and left wing parties, there is a clearly sympathetic attitude towards expanding the railway infrastructure and towards creating better rail connections across national borders and limiting flight. However, hesitation and skepticism also occur. One candidate notes: I do not believe trains can solve the problem. It will take far too long to build the extra tracks needed for us to establish the high-speed train services needed. The climate problems will worsen and grow in volume and gravity, when we are finally ready with climate-friendly rail-based solution models.
However, as mentioned, more candidates clearly state that they will work to expand train operations and train infrastructure in Europe if they are elected to the European Parliament. A candidate thus remarks, “My main concern is to make the train a real alternative to air travel in Europe. Firstly, we must create a fair competition between aircrafts and trains by also including air transport within the emission allowances system (emission trading scheme) and levy taxes on aviation fuel. In addition, we have to invest heavily in high-speed trains and rails, thus making it easy, fast and convenient to jump on the train between the big cities in Europe. As a Dane living in Brussels, it annoys me again and again that it is not only more expensive to take the train home to Denmark, but that it also takes so long and with so many changes that it is not really an alternative.”
Many survey participants consider upgrading rail operations and implementation of measures regulating flights and air travel as a central part of the necessary green transition. In Denmark, all train operations should be performed electrically and the national train company DSB should cooperate with other train companies in Europe to introduce fast trains between major cities in Europe.
Many of the candidates surveyed voice the view that it must be easy and cheap to take the train and it is stated that for the time being it is too expensive to take the train. The price level relating to the use of train connections should also be lower than the cost of airline tickets so as to ensure that trains become more competitive. In addition, there is too little coordination between the train operators. Closer cooperation between rail companies should be able to result in time savings for passengers traveling by train. The railway network should thus be expanded and updated so that people can quickly move from one city to another. It is pointed out that some of the problems we are facing today are those of incompatibility, i.e. that member states have many different signaling systems that cannot speak together. This is one of the things that is already in the process of being fixed. Unfortunately, it does not go fast enough. A candidate emphasizes that (train) operations in Europe should be on public hands.
Another candidate points out that an action plan should be developed at EU level that aims to improve the overall rail network and promote cross-border train services between major cities in Europe. In addition, it must be made clear to people how much their individual journey affects the climate. This part of the carbon footprint must appear distinctly during the procedure of booking tickets for trains and planes.
In short, it must be cheaper, easier and faster to use the train. Also in a concrete and very low-practical respect: “Easy access to information on travel times and ticket prices via a website and app that the consumer can use in his/her travel planning. And there should also be requirements for the design and interior: Trains for longer journeys may very well be comfortably equipped with good chairs, resting places, working facilities, small conversations/meeting rooms, etc. Attractive toilet facilities and the possibility of bathing as well as buying good food must be taken for granted.” It requires public investment to develop rail networks, but funds must also be earmarked for reducing prices. This can be finely supplemented by e.g. taxes on air travel or aviation fuel. However, it is noted that today fuel for aircraft is free from duties because of EU rules. These decelerating provisions must therefore be removed, and member states should also be allowed to impose taxes on aviation fuel.
Many candidates therefore favor the introduction of taxes on aviation fuel. Also, in some candidates’ opinion, it is necessary to make flying considerably more expensive. Both because the airline industry, as the competitive situation is now, represents a race against the bottom, and because the working conditions of the employees in the aviation industry are generally hopeless. However, when flights should be more expensive, it is obviously at least as much because aviation affects climate to such a violent degree.
A candidate notes that the aviation sector is part of the CO2 emission allowances system in the EU today. Unfortunately, the system does not work, because there are too many allowances so that airlines are not required to do anything to develop more sustainable aircrafts. We need to change that. The allowances system should be amended to offer fewer allowances and be restructured in way so that it becomes more expensive for aircraft companies to pollute in terms of CO2. In this way, we can stimulate massive investments to make the airline industry more sustainable.
A few candidates present views rooted in EU criticism and point out that EU has made it more costly and troublesome to travel by train between countries in Europe. A candidate notes that it is a major problem that the single market hampers Denmark’s ability in having national rules taking precedence over EU legislation in a way that it could be of benefit to environmental and climate priorities. I therefore want to work actively, the candidate adds, to ensure that Denmark can take the lead in the environmental field. This also applies to the traffic area, and I support that we cooperate with other countries on sustainable transportation issues.
One of those who completed our questionnaire looks further ahead and believes that an expanded European train operation must have an impact on the extent of flying: As soon as rail travel has developed into an attractive alternative to air travel, domestic flights must be limited and preferably abolished.
Which role do you imagine night train should play in this context?
A liberal comment states that “night trains are certainly an excellent alternative to airplanes, and if people want to take advantage of that, then it is fine. If there is a market for it, then there will of course also be a company that would like to offer such a service.”
One of the comments provided signals skepticism about train journeys but at the same time keeps a door open for re-launched night train operation: “I rarely travel by train in Europe because it takes far too long and is extremely expensive, in addition to being very inflexible. Night trains at reasonable prices could be an excellent solution when it comes to traveling with the family on holiday, or if I was going on a business trip far away.”
But many comments welcome night trains as a mode of travelling. There is great interest in extended night train operation at European level. Night trains should play a greater role than today. Night trains are crucial to future transport. Hence, it would be desirable to expand the night train network to include at least the major cities in the EU, such as Stockholm, Berlin, Prague, Paris, Brussels and Rome, which are major destinations, to which many people today are traveling by plane.
Improvements in the night train area should be combined with upgrading of train operations and rail infrastructure: “As part of the investments in high-speed rail and rail, I consider it natural that we again get more night trains in Europe,” one of the candidates observes.
A candidate emphasizes that train should be able to be used all the way. The train network must be both local and regional and the travel experience must be able to provide travel atmosphere and work peace. The public transportation system should be viewed as a major European public system, and the funds for the expansion can, among other things, be increased and the financial support for this purpose could be derived from a European air tax.
It is pointed out that all night train connections that have been closed down over the years should be restored. A candidate refers to the fact that the Austrian ÔBB has restored some of the routes that German DB decided to discontinue. One of the comments states that a railway convention should be set up within the UN’s ECE or the Council of Europe, which ensures cooperation between the countries and the national railway companies and covering both night trains and day trains.
A candidate is in favor of ensuring that passengers are properly compensated if they are delayed on their journey through the EU. Delays on a continuous journey should entitle the same compensation as if air passengers are delayed. Accordingly, train passengers should be entitled to food and drink in case of shorter delays or overnight stays and replacement trips in case of longer delays.
Representatives of two left-wing parties advocate the creation of a central European rail support scheme to support faster, cheaper and more frequent trains between European cities. One of the candidates emphasizes that the night train expansion requires the creation of a European train fund that can ensure efficient, cheap and comfortable trains across Europe. Another left-wing candidate notes: “An important part of this is also to promote night trains so that you can board the train in Denmark and wake up somewhere in Europe.”
A few candidates are very enthusiastic and emphasize that night trains have a huge potential, especially over long distances. They indicate that they will work persistently for this potential to be strengthened and put into practice in the coming years. Therefore, drawing upon EU budgetary resources, more investments should be directed toward high-quality night train departures and connections.
- What would you do to ensure that the playing field for the various modes of long-distance travel in Europe be so organized that it offers more equal terms of operation?
A liberal voice notes: “It is clear that there must be equal and fair competition – also in the transport market. However, I find it difficult to compare e.g. air travel with train travel, as they can do something very different. Trains can perform really well at shorter distances, but trains can also be very slow on longer journeys.”
A Eurosceptic voice notes: “It would be obvious to turn this into a matter of the Council of Europe and not the EU. Efforts should be made to strengthen train cooperation for the whole of Europe. As climate and environmental malefactor, airplane travel is let off far too cheap and should be burdened with charges similar to the damage caused by the aircraft, for example in terms of CO2 emissions, etc. National and international train tickets could be made cheaper through public subsidies.”
A few EU-critical voices want a showdown with the EU’s 4th Railway Directive. One of these voices remarks: “I do not necessarily think that there should be equal conditions between, for example, flights and trains. On the contrary, I want to considerably improve the conditions of train journeys. This requires a special financial awareness favoring train travelling, but also that we roll back privatizations, for example by canceling the EU’s 4th railway package.”
The commentators placing a focus on how to design a future playing field with more equal conditions for players, operators and modes of transport offer a number of ideas and suggestions. A selection of these are listed below:
Establish a common framework for public cross-border transportation.
Tax and tax exemptions for the least polluting types of traffic. Or even better: tax exemptions in connection with investments in climate-friendly changes and transition-related initiatives.
All support for fossil fuels must be phased out, so that we make sustainable transportation cheaper compared to the polluting transportation modes. Subsidies for fossil fuels should be illegal in the EU.
There is a need for financial support for rail services so that European carriers have the economic opportunity to operate trains across Europe. At the same time, investments must be made in the railways so that trains can move quickly through Europe. This support can come from either the EU or be provided by the national countries. At the same time, we should ensure that the various branches of the transportation sector work on equal terms, so that, for example, the airline industry also pays taxes, VAT, etc.
International taxes on aviation fuel (preferably at UN level) should be introduced. There is a need for returning to a national practice for the allocation of air routes rather than relying on the maintenance of the internal aviation market (open skies).
The air travel industry must be part of the CO2 emission allowances system (emissions trading system).
Fuel must be taxed on a par with fuel for other types of transport. This will ensure fair competition between the different modes of transport.
Creating a European rail funding scheme to ensure the possibility of the train becoming the first choice when traveling in Europe. The European-level train fund will be tasked to make sure that all countries take responsibility and to ensure equal conditions for work on the development and operation of long distance trains.
Could you even imagine that you and your party will increase support for more climate-friendly modes of transportation?
It is worth noting that a large majority of the candidates who have contributed to this study indicate that they and their party are willing to increase support for more climate-friendly modes of transportation. A number of key ideas and suggestions extracted from the candidates’ answers are listed below:
If so, how would you deal with it?
There should partly be taxes on air travel and partly investments in trains and buses.
Climate fee on flights inspired by the Swedish model.
Dare set green goals for a common future.
An air tax should provide money for green transition measures, and the tax revenue must be used for the expansion of electrified high-speed railways, so that train traffic can compete with air traffic.
Within the framework of the EU there should be the possibility of providing support for expansion railway infrastructure along with the development of climate-friendly modes of public transportation. The EU must co-finance the expansion of the train network and a reduction of the price of train tickets. This will mean that trains can run faster and meet customer needs.
I would like to use more of the EU funds for massive investments in high-speed rail and rail infrastructure and, for example, earmark more funds under the Connecting Europe Facility specifically for this purpose.
State aid to the railways and national railway companies must simply be allowed instead of railways and rail companies being subject to EU competition law and exposed to liberalization.
We must first establish some clear requirements to be satisfied by the modes of transportation that emit the most CO2: They must reduce these emissions significantly. I believe that claims or quotas perform better than taxes. In relation to airline traffic, I think that the most effective remedy we could put in place here would be setting a clear limit on how much emission we will allow, so that innovation is forced through. It will be faster than building high-speed railways across Europe.
Tax exemptions in connection with climate-friendly changes.
Tax reductions on climate-friendly transportation paralleled by a small increase in tax on the less climate-friendly modes of transportation in the geographical areas where there are real transport alternatives, such as in the big cities.
Future investments in infrastructure must unconditionally respect the climate and the environment. Extension of road networks must primarily consider thinner populated areas from which people must transport themselves to larger stations for further transport.
Phasing out every kind of support for fossil fuels coupled with the introduction and maintenance of support for climate-friendly public transport along with efforts to set higher targets for the electrification of the transport sector.
Petrol and diesel must be phased out for cars by raising taxes and giving subsidies to stimulate the sale of electric cars to promote a rapid transition to electric car mobility.
Introducing a stop for the import of petrol and diesel cars.
Aircraft must be gradually switched to use electricity as a propellant.
The support for more climate-friendly forms of transportation should be increased, and we should begin in our homes, where the idea is that transportation users should be nudged to select the climate-friendly modes of transportation. This could have a stimulating effect in creating a real competition for the development of the green infrastructure of European societies.
Setting up a European railways financing scheme and introducing progressive aviation fees in Denmark. Of course, this should be done across Europe as political situations arise which make it possible to create a majority for such options or solution models.
- How do you rate the results of the existing EU rail market liberalization policy? Has liberalization actually served a means of ensuring proper national and cross-border train connections?
A couple of candidates who have returned completed questionnaires articulate a positive attitude towards the existing EU policy on the liberalization of the rail market. One candidate states, ”In general, increased competition is a good thing – also on the railroad, as it ensures passengers cheaper tickets and better service also across Europe.” The other candidate says, “I am advocating the liberalization model and the actual liberalizations, but I also recognize that we are not there yet when it comes to ensuring good rail connections especially across borders.”
However, it is striking that the vast majority of graduates participating in the study generally express negative attitudes to the results of the EU’s efforts to liberalize the rail market so far. Several respond “no” to the question: Has liberalization been a means of ensuring good national and cross-border train connections?
A candidate says, “At the borders in particular, the train operation seems impossible. Strange that the single market has been successful in exchanging goods and information but has fallen short in exchanging people. Of course, a train journey must be as easy to book as a flight. The individual operators have to see the common interest in lifting the industry’s image by supporting a common booking system with “start and end destination” tickets. In this respect the EU would also be able to provide standardization solutions.”
Certain candidates with a distinctly EU-critical standpoint distance themselves to the EU Railways Directives. A candidate observes that EU involvement in this area is detrimental to both employees and to the service the citizens receive. The candidate adds, “I strongly oppose the EU railway packages and believe that Denmark itself has to decide on the train operation in our country. Of course, we must cooperate with train companies in other countries, but what we are experiencing now can end up destroying train operations in areas where few people live, and this can lead to wage dumping and to compromising of the safety of train operations.”
Another critic states: “The split between different providers and the perceived splitting between rails and trains has been very damaging. The railroad can be considered a natural national monopoly. Hence, there must be no competing companies, but solely national and/or local public and democratic companies that cooperate and learn from each other. As the situation is now, train companies lose a lot of money trying to outperform or undercut each other in EU tenders. You could already see the outcome in the UK that liberalized rail operations before the EU. Now, the leading opposition party in the UK Labour, intends renationalizing railways, when the country leaves the EU and Brexit is completed.”
And there are more critical observations:
EU’s liberalization of the rail network has been catastrophic to the coordination of cross-border links. A fragmented rail network has been created with many operators, making it difficult to create the necessary connections between European cities. We need a strong joint train company to ensure better and more coherent planning that can offer a robust response to the competition imposed by the aircraft when traveling in Europe. Instead of liberalization, we need investments. That is why my party proposes a European train fund.
Liberalization is a destructive agent that too much focuses on the ideological premise and expectation that train services must provide economic benefit to businesses rather than primarily serving as an asset to society in that the train system guarantees citizens basic transportation. Therefore, countries should be allowed to roll back liberalization in this field.
Massive savings and outsourcing of the railways have meant poorer quality, higher prices and the elimination of, among other things, night train routes and services. The railway network is a too important part of the infrastructure for us to leave it to market forces.
Liberalization has rarely had the effect that there have been more cross-border train connections. It is important that train operations become a national or European investment area and venture implying that the railway infrastructure, like other critical infrastructure, is on public hands, and so that it becomes possible as well to operate train routes that are not immediately economically profitable.
Train operation in Europe must be to the greatest possible benefit to the citizens using the trains, and the purpose should not be to ensure the greatest possible benefit to the companies operating the railways. Therefore, countries should be allowed to roll back liberalization and instead cooperate with each other to offer their populations a good and cheap train operation.
The current policy of marketization of train operations has not been a success. In the train area, competition has, on the contrary, had the negative effect that night train routes have been closed, and this outcome has meant that rail companies are reluctant to opening new routes.
Liberalization has not been beneficial when it comes to ensuring better public transportation solutions, such as trains, and especially high-speed trains capable of competing with aircraft in terms of time and duration of travelling.
No, liberalization has not yet made it easier, faster and cheaper to move around Europe in trains, nor has it resulted in declining ticket prices.
Do you want to work to promote policies that ensure better national and cross-border rail services, including non-motorized ferry services?
All but one participant in the survey replies yes to the question of whether to work to promote policies that ensure better national and cross-border rail services including ferry services without motor vehicles. One contributor answers, however, that he/she will not work for ferry lines without a sustainable economic basis. Another contributor points out that it should still be possible to transfer motor vehicles (bridge, tunnel, ferry).
Or will you work to implement alternative solutions, that is, prioritizing and promoting other transport solutions than railways and trains?
Thirteen candidates answer yes, when they consider the question: Will you work to implement alternative solutions, i.e. invest in other transport solutions than railways and train operations?
If yes, please describe the alternative solutions you envision.
A liberal candidate notes: “One does not exclude the other, but we must remember that by far the largest part of passenger transportation takes place in private cars. We cannot neglect the many people who are dependent on their car.”
Listed below are a number of key statements describing alternative transport solutions:
We must force the use of more CO2 neutral solutions through, so that airport traffic also becomes an acceptable mode of transportation.
As for the short distances, we must increase the possibility of driving in e.g. hydrogen and electric cars, which require the establishment of charging stations for electric cars throughout Europe.
There are too many cars on the road, consequently, there must be a tax relief relating to car sharing or joint transport and the car fleet must be green.
In some places there must be ferries and preferably combined with trains, and elsewhere bus or light rail can be an option. However, it is desirable that the train network be expanded. I also want to see a ferry link to Greenland restored.
Other solutions for sustainable transport can be combined solutions, where individuals are encouraged to use sustainable transport for shorter trips/trips to the train station and train services for longer trips. Car transport must also be rethought so that we focus more on electric and hydrogen cars. There are also good solutions for bus and bicycle transport. Climate-friendly transport requires solutions at many levels, but there is no doubt that trains play a central role, as it is mainly trains that can replace much air transportation.
Train services can only live up to users’ expectations for service by facilitating intermodality and interconnectivity thus linking up with other modes of transport, which are also supposed to be climate-friendly: electric bikes, publicly available electric cars and buses. I think that electrification of the commuter network with ample capacity comes first. That is why we must work on the difficult cross-border solutions.
It is quite essential to prepare for rail traffic playing a greater role in passenger transportation in Europe in the future. There is a huge potential in new electric trains that run on wind and sun.
Attention should also be focused on the possibility of allocating funds for research into other forms of sustainable transport.
Transport-minimizing measures must receive high priority e.g. video conferencing instead of business travel and the like.
- Ideas and suggestions have been presented for a coherent train system comprising both day and night trains across the country borders in Europe (a proposed concept is, for example, “LunaLiner”, which is the term for a future fine-meshed comfortable and climate-friendly night train system, developed by railway expert experts who covers central parts of Europe). You will thus get an alternative to short and medium distance flights. How do you look at these plans, and if you support them, what would you to do to realize plans with this content?
Overall, candidates who participated in the study are sympathetic to the LunaLiner concept. Many of them, however, in the same breath admit that they do not know or only know very little about this proposal for a transnational train system in Europe. There are many positive statements. Below is a selection of comments:
As politicians, we have to set the framework for e.g. train operation, and then let it be up to people who have much better understanding of it to choose the right solutions. In this case, it will be the operators.
We only need to get started, and as a parliamentarian I welcome the opportunity to participate in the work of the Green Group in the European Parliament for the establishment of a train system in harmony with the described pattern.
Yes, that’s the only right way. We must support this night train services model through EU discussions and by framing of approval plans for implementing a coherent rail network on these lines as part of climate plans
I have not dealt with the plans in detail, but overall I strongly support the idea of developing coherence alternatives, and I will also support them in the European Parliament in every way we can.
I have not yet seen the concrete plans, but I would very much like to help implement a fast, efficient and coherent train system across Europe.
I do not know the details of precisely LunaLiner, but generally I warmly support suggestions that offer economically and practically realistic alternatives to air transportation. I would very much like to help increase the visibility of this type of proposal and I will vote for such proposals if I am elected.
It is a really exciting concept with lots of potential in it. This scheme can be strengthened through upcoming railway packages and new transport industry strategies.
I fully support the plans, but in endeavoring to implement the concept, we must ensure that the Commissioner for transport during the hearings in Parliament, when the new parliament starts work, promise that there will be legislation. I know that Michael Cramer from the Green Group in the European Parliament has worked hard to have it approved and implemented. I will take up the baton and work just as hard to make it become a reality within the next five years.
A model of support could be the allocation of financial resources for the establishment of such a train system from the EU and financed by the nation states’ payment to the EU (national EU dues).
As already mentioned above, a European rail funding scheme could be created which could help finance and implement it.
This can be achieved through a European train fund. This support scheme should be financed through a rearrangement of the EU budget. Accordingly, the door should be slammed on support for fossil fuels with EU money being invested in sustainable energy and transport.
I am a warm supporter of that. For me, it would be natural to use funds from the Connecting Europe Facility, but also from the regional funds to reach the goals of the plans. One could examine whether it would make sense with a genuine common train fund in the context of a common European strategic plan for running the trains in Europe.
However, there are also respondents, typically with an EU-critical standpoint, who disagree with the EU’s role in building cross-border train systems. This point of view is jclearly reflected in the following comment: “I very much welcome this kind of proposal. The first step is a showdown over the EU’s power in the transportation field, and then I think there is a need to think about cooperation for the whole of Europe and to convene an all- European summit on train operation in Europe. Here, I would like to see all countries in Europe participate, and not just the EU countries. I only need to mention interrail, which is a collaboration that includes non-EU countries.”
A single candidate is reminiscent of a practical detail: “On some lines, one must lower the speed of night trains so that travel does not last for less than 8 hours.”
- The European Court of Auditors has characterized the European high-speed train as an “inefficient patchwork” that would not help to create good rail links at EU level (see here). In your opinion, what could you do to improve this situation?
A liberal voice among the respondents states: “We must strengthen competition in the market so that consumers get a better opportunity to choose the solution that is best and cheapest.” Another respondent disagrees with the Court of Auditors’ claim or assertion and refers to his/her own positive experience of using high-speed trains. He or she refers explicitly to France as a positive example. Here, high-speed trains have been very successful, and they have, it is stated, actually replaced domestic aircraft in France with rail-based travel solutions. However, something can be done and it will therefore be an obvious solution to expand the high-speed network. Most respondents subscribe to the Court’s characterizing statement and suggest various solutions. In addition to concrete proposals and ideas for improving the high-speed system, some of the responses point to the need for strategy development, expert analysis, research work, establishment of organizational frameworks (e.g. setting up a transport group in the EU) plus formulation, consolidation and expansion of European standards within this specific part of transport sector. The experts’ presentations and recommendations can then be discussed by ministers responsible for the transportation sector in member countries. Upon completion of this phase, ministers and experts would be tasked with conceiving a plan.
One of those who filled out the questionnaire considers Europe more broadly, and not just the EU countries. The candidate writes: “There is a need for a common European strategy for high-speed cross-border trains. For me, it would be quite natural that such a strategy be devised and established by the EU in close cooperation with the countries that have chosen to stand outside the EU or which are still applying for membership (e.g. the UK, Switzerland and the Western Balkan countries).”
Presented below are some of the concrete ideas and proposals for solutions included in the answers:
Establishment of a single green transport market with a central administrative, planning and management unit. From a pragmatic point of view, such a central authority to be concerned with the development and administration of such a green transport market could be geographically placed in Germany. Perhaps the gain should be calculated on the green bottom line of the economy.
It’s all about Member States also giving priority to the development of a high-speed network. It is expensive to change the entire European railway network, but it is really a vital climate investment we are facing and therefore the expansion and improvement of the high-speed network is a long-term project that both the Member States and the EU must find more funding for. The task is to speed up the expansion of the high-speed network, so that you get a coherent network of high-speed rail services.
Various tools and approaches should be considered at the same time. We must give up the idea that the EU is necessarily the owner of an all-inclusive project. Instead, more focus should be placed on increasing high-speed rail cooperation including the regional and national levels where member states to a greater extent are committed to and take control of the development of the high-speed rail network, and feel the ownership of that part of the rail sector, rather than that the EU is taking care of it.
Related to this is the following point of view: I believe that regional cooperation should be increased where possible here and now rather than waiting for the EU as a whole to come up with a solution. Best practices can be transferred to neighboring countries and regions. We simply cannot wait for high-speed rail upgrading to be a priority of the Commission.
It is already agreed that we should standardize both trains, rails and communication. You just have no authority to coordinate work and advise politicians. If agreement can be reached among the governments themselves and with the Commission, I would like to see an authority being set up to fill the vacuum and entrusted with the task of providing international services and creating a coherent rail network.
In a situation with many national/private railway companies there is a need for coordinating and formulating possible common requirements for railway companies through mutual efforts and cooperation covering national companies, private companies and the EU.
We should intend to ensure that the next railway package will include an in-built common strategy for high-speed trains in Europe, and we must be willing to spend much money to get it realized. It is hopeless that train services are so bad in the EU, as is the case today.
- EU passenger rights have recently been the subject of debate. What is your attitude to the future of passenger rights when it comes to rail transportation and other forms of public transportation?
A review of the responses under this heading shows that respondents generally fairly clearly support passenger rights in the rail sector and other parts of public transportation. Some statements point to the fact that strong passenger rights are a prerequisite for strengthening and expanding public transportation across national/EU borders. A selection of attitudes to passenger rights and the strengthening of rights are reproduced below.
It is important that, as a train passenger in Europe, you can feel fairly safe and confident when buying a ticket. I also think that, as a train user, you have some good terms, as it is today, but it is always something that should be debated.
It is important that passengers have clear and good rights. This ensures confidence in train operations and other public transportation.
The same rules should apply as for air travel.
Strong passenger rights are essential if we want to ensure more and better international passenger transport. I would like these to be expanded. For example, today, rights do not apply to national travel, and this must be changed.
Strong passenger rights are a crucial prerequisite for getting more people to jump on the train. There is room for improvement in this area, and I would like to work for that.
It is positive that passenger rights have been strengthened in the proposal adopted by the European Parliament in November 2009, which ensures better compensation for passengers experiencing delays, better information to train passenger about their rights and which cleans up all the exceptions a number of countries have set up to avoid compensating. It is therefore to be hoped that the position of the European Parliament will be maintained and also expressed when the new legislation has been negotiated between Member States, internally, the Commission and the European Parliament.
It is important to create better opportunities for having a bike by train. In addition, it is welcomed that consumer rights have generally been strengthened. It would be ideal, if you could always get information on alternative travel routes.
This problem relates in particular to cross-border transport services and a travel process involving two or more operators. Should operators and transport providers have the opportunity to refuse to provide financial compensation (to the users/ passengers) if a departure is canceled or markedly delayed because of “exceptional circumstances”?
It appears that a majority of those who contributed to this survey, is against the operators and transport providers being allowed the possibility of refusing compensation (for users/passengers) if a flight is canceled or significantly delayed because of “exceptional circumstances”. We subsequently asked the respondents to elaborate on the concept of “extraordinary circumstances”. A number of suggestions for definitions and some basic comments on the problem are included below.
When such situations exist, how do you define “extraordinary circumstances”?
Common clear frames must be developed and adopted.
Common principles for compensation with minimum standards of compensation must be established.
It is important that the providers of services show a certain amount of flexibility when it comes to passenger rights. How to define extraordinary situations is a legal issue rather than a political one.
DB, Deutsche Bahn, already offers refunds today. I also thought that DSB has clear guidelines; as I see it, it is quite OK that demands are defined for service quality.
Public transportation should be seen as a public service and not as a business that is able to cheat people of their compensation. If we talk about specific circumstances, passengers must receive their compensation, but the railway company should not pay. It must be the state that steps in, possibly drawing upon the funds of a special financial scheme for this purpose.
Basically, I’m not happy that train companies should be able to refuse financial compensation because of the “exceptional circumstances”. Of course, one can in principle imagine some really extraordinary circumstances, including for example a closed bridge or a blocked road due to extreme weather or the like. Apart from such incidents, I do not believe that operators should be able to evade the responsibility.
An exceptional situation exists in the case of force majeure events. It may be that the tracks have been washed away, rails are under water or that there are strikes. Otherwise, there should be no opportunity to withdraw compensation.
Under exceptional circumstances, such as unforeseen natural disasters, incidents of terror and major accidents (and not, for example, defoliation, which, as we know, takes place every year).
It is a problem that “extraordinary circumstances” are not clearly defined. Of course, there would be circumstances that a train operator does not master why no compensation should be paid. If the delay is caused by another operator or the infrastructure manager (in Denmark BaneDanmark), one might imagine a European system where the compensation is initially paid by the train company you travel with, which then has to seek recourse in the European system (with reference to the “offender”). In our opinion, there must be extraordinary nature-related phenomena or the like if non-compensation and non-payment to customers/passengers should be justified.
It could become part of a pan-European project aimed at establishing an internal green transport market to create a rail guarantee fund, which would undoubtedly benefit both the passenger and freight transport sector. It will undoubtedly be very difficult to knit a suitable scheme together and special situations will arise that will lead to the development of specially adapted exception clauses. The two areas should be separated, but if the purpose is to maintain a dynamic infrastructure in a time when the climate dictates zero emissions, using the largest players seems to be an obvious solution. Private car and truck-based handling of freight should not operate with a particular advantage as regards flexibility. Exceptional clauses, which refer to e.g. force majeure incidents, must be defined as precisely as possible, so that compensation becomes the overriding rule.
- Should a tax on fossil fuels be introduced in the transport sector at EU level?
Should a tax on fossil fuels be introduced in the transport sector at EU level?
As shown in Table 5, a majority of those who have submitted completed questionnaires are in favor of imposing a tax on fossil fuels in the transport sector.
However, a single candidate is almost opposed to this type regulation: “I would prefer that we find other solutions, since with this kind of charges we hit or punish peripheral areas that do not have alternative modes of transport. My suggestion is to create new law that sets the standard for how much new cars must emit.”
Two candidates answer “perhaps”, adding that it will depend on the design a fee. They are in favor of changing the current EU rules thereby equipping countries with better opportunities for e.g. introducing taxes on aviation fuel. At the same time, however, it is important that local and regional considerations can be taken into account in the design of the tax structure, and it must therefore be considered that introducing the tax at EU level will be a problem. Indeed, the risk is that a tax at EU level can hit unevenly in some places while being too unambitious elsewhere if it does not take into account the differences. On the other hand, it is a good idea to give countries and regions more room for maneuvering to go further than they can today. This entails, among other things, allowing member countries to introduce taxes on aviation fuel.
A left-wing candidate emphasizes the importance of ensuring that taxes do not turn the heavy end down: “In our climate plan, which is fully funded and well-calculated, we have explained and illustrated how the taxes on petrol and diesel should be introduced in a socially just manner that provide compensation for low and middle class income groups in the form of the green cheque.”
If so (yes), what will you do to get the tax adopted and implemented?
The responding candidates, who are positive about introducing a tax on fossil fuels, are then asked to describe what they will more precisely do to get such a tax adopted and implemented. Below is a selection of answers with suggestions and ideas:
Yes, but since you cannot tax the fuel, the tax must be a green tax on the ticket. On the ticket you can specify the amount or volume of emission of climate gases during that particular journey. The introduction of a possible charge levied on the truck transportation must depend on the feasibility and availability of non-polluting truck transport and on the possibility of converting the truck transport to transportation by train on a given line.
I will present oral arguments in a speech and vote for the tax and for the countries to be able to introduce the tax freely, which will be easier, when they can regulate more nationally and if a truly international convention is agreed upon. In the EU, one could start by making fossil fuel subsidies illegal and then adopt a minimum level of tax that member states would have to charge and administer themselves.
A candidate notes: I am not in favor of EU taxes, but I support Danish taxes, when it comes to fossil fuels, and I advocate that the surplus be used to promote sustainable modes of transportation. We can also agree on the mechanics of a national tax at the level of the Council of Europe or in the UN, the yields of which goes to the state in the individual countries.
Similarly, an EU-critical candidate notes: To ensure that fossil fuels are phased out they may no longer be able to obtain any kind of support. I would like to see the introduction of taxes on fossil fuels in the transportation sector. It should not be a genuine EU tax, since it must be left to Member States to decide whether to introduce such a fuel tax to be developed in a socially just way.
It must be a common EU regulation since cross-border activities must be handled jointly.
My goal is to become a member of the European Parliament Transport Committee, where I will be able to work on this issue. I will both engage in the proposals coming from the Commission, but also work on the area itself through initiative reports, thus focusing on the area.
The Belgian government has just submitted a proposal to introduce a tax on aviation fuels. [At a Council of Ministers meeting in the EU for Environment and Climate Ministers on Tuesday, on 5 March 2019, Belgium presented a proposal to tackle the aviation climate challenge through the flight fare; Belgium wants the ‘polluter pays’ principle also to apply to air traffic in the form of a tax on the aircraft’s fuel, levied on the ticket price or on each flight] – and such a proposal must be pushed for implementation. And if it is not implemented now, then we must continue to press for political resumption.
It requires us to find a majority. The money from the tax must be used for the green transition of the transport sector.
One may well imitate the approach used when, for instance, rules are adopted within the framework of the single market. Such a fuel tax must be implemented as a minimum tax/benefit.
I intend to speak against industry and lobbyists and refer to the fact that the same tax is imposed on the entire transport sector so as to avoid distortion of competition. To this end, there are, of course, even more partners in Parliament.
Cooperation with everyone who politically, at NGO and lobby level, will work for this important matter.
- Would you support a general ban on short-haul flights within the EU?
Would you support a general ban on short-haul flights within the EU?
It is somewhat striking that there is such a massive majority against the introduction of a general ban on short-haul flights within the EU.
If so (yes), which minimum distance must then apply to flights?
A single candidate, who staggers between yes and no, says: “We could well ban short-haul flights. However, I would prefer that through legislation we would be able to force through innovation, which reduces CO2 emissions – for aircraft as well.”
One of the candidates who has answered yes wants the geographical area that will be subject to a flight ban to be broader than the EU. Prohibitions will also promote transport alternatives to air traffic and will thus not be detrimental to passengers. The minimum distance can be increased gradually, but 500 km can be a start, and then it can be further increased according to a fixed schedule.
The other, who is positive about banning short-haul flights, writes, “There must be a real possibility to choose another mode of transport on the route and it is not possible to introduce minimum distances at short notice. Member States must be notified in good time so that alternative forms of travel can be offered. For example, with fast buses, trains or sailing. In the long term, the minimum distance must depend on how fast and direct train connections can be established.”
If no, if you are against air transport regulation based on a distance criterion per single flight as outlined: What other steps and initiatives would you then propose to be implemented in order to limit short-haul flights within the EU?
In the questionnaire, we asked candidates who refuse a ban to suggest other actions and initiatives that can help reduce the volume of short-haul flights within the EU. In this respect, suggestions and views of the participating candidates sound as follows:
A liberal voice states: We must not restrict short-haul flights within the EU. If there is a market for alternative modes of transport, then politicians do not need to interfere. Then the conversion will happen.
I support clear and ambitious targets for CO2 reduction in air transportation, especially in short-haul flights, for example through requirements for climate-friendly aviation fuel, but not a definite ban.
I suggest adding national taxes on polluting traffic. That means that, as I see it, there is a need for making it easier to get around by means of sustainable traffic and cheaper. In this way, sustainable traffic will outperform short flights. On the other hand, I am not a proponent of prohibition. It may also be so that for geographical reasons there is a need for short flights because there is no extended alternative transportation infrastructure to rely on.
We need to develop the alternatives so that it becomes far more attractive to use other modes of transport than flights. It is a better way than with a simple ban.
It’s about the travelling time. On the London-Paris and London-Brussels lines, passenger numbers have doubled after the introduction of high-speed trains. Several high-speed trains will reduce the number of short-haul flights along with the introduction of air tax. Therefore, priority should be given to the construction and development of railways that are faster and more comfortable than aircraft travelling to outperform short-haul flights.
A progressive levy per aircraft based on the Swedish model should be introduced.
One could limit the number of departures where there is other alternative transport modes. In Denmark, for example, between Copenhagen and Aarhus, where fast trains are an option and connect the two cities.
We need to invest much more on alternative transportation and would like to make it very expensive to fly. But we must also make it realistic (time, price level) to take the train. It will have a better effect than a ban.
It is to go too far to make a definite ban, but I would like to support taxes on fossil fuels and subsidies for CO2 reduction in the airline sector. In addition, the amount of CO2 emission allowances in the aviation sector must be reduced so that the companies are pushed in a sustainable direction.
Taxes on air transport plus control with and strict rules on working conditions and tax conditions in the airline industry, supplemented by good transport alternatives to flying, together with an information campaign centering on travel opportunities that constitute alternatives to aviation.
One could create a mechanism or body that aims to promote the individual short-haul route that is serviced by trains at the expense of the corresponding short-haul flight. For example, distortion of competition in favor of air transport could trigger a penalty charge based on a transport time factor. This should provide incentives for the development of train operation and not promote the flying speed. I admit: a ban may seem less bureaucratic.
- The new international agreement CORSIA (Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation ) and the EU ETS (Emissions Trading Scheme ) scheme are not sufficient if we are to have control of aviation’s emission of gases and particles into the atmosphere. Which other measures and interventions would you imagine as appropriate for regulating flying activities?
Table 7 shows the survey participants’ responses (ticks of boxes) divided into different types of initiatives and interventions with a view to regulating the extent and number of flights:
Which other measures and interventions would you imagine as appropriate for regulating flying activities?
A tax on aircraft fuel 19
A tax on air tickets 17
VAT on airline tickets 12
A charge that is imposed on passengers who fly frequently 10
A tax on flights based on the size of the aircraft (goods also taxed) 15
Moratoriums on the expansion of airport infrastructure and capacity 10
A ban on certain types of flights, e.g. cargo flights over short distances 8
Other initiatives and measures? 10
The figures clearly show that a tax on aviation fuel and a tax on air tickets are important priorities from the perspective of the respondents.
We asked the survey participants who ticked the last box (Other initiatives and actions) to describe and exemplify the initiatives and action, they would point to in order to restrict aircraft operations. The main points of the participants’ answers are listed below.
Tightening up the requirements for climate-friendly fuel, for example electric trains and the biofuel in the airline industry.
In the longer term, a general ban on flight for business purposes and for pleasure (holiday and leisure) should be introduced. Flying should be reserved for emergency and ambulance activities. Consequently, the alternative is trains (and local public transport) plus ferries (you can live and work while you are on a long trip by train and ship).
Faster development of engine types for less polluting aircraft. The proposed initiatives and restrictions targeted to aviation, hit all including those individuals, who are forced to use planes as there is currently no adequate and competitive alternative travel options. These persons should not be subject to more taxes and charges.
We must set requirements for the emission of CO2 so that the aviation industry also comes up with alternative solutions as has been the case of buses and the automotive industry.
We should also prioritize research funding within the area.
We should introduce tax and tax exemptions in connection with investments/restructuring efforts which significantly reduce the emission of CO2 e.g. through the development of electric aircraft. This means that one the one side we are helping to support the necessary restructuring, while on the other hand we punish those who do not change and embark on reorientation.