Elections build-up: EU's political parties on public transport

EP Election build-up: Europe's political parties on public transport?

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  • EU Policy

The European Parliment elections are upon us, and in an effort to highlight their importance, UITP Europe has approached each of the main political groups and asked them to talk about their vision for public transport. Respondents include the big six parliamentary groups: the European People's Party (EPP), the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), the Greens-Europe Free Alliance (Greens/EFA), the European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR), and the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL).  

The parties were united on many points, including the importance of public transport, their support of the current system for awarding contracts and the advantages of market liberalisation, though each offered different perspectives on how best to approach current challenges. Below is a summary of the survey responses; the full report can be found here.

Public transport: the "engine" that keeps Europe working

All parties agreed that public transport is indispensible both economically and socially, with the EPP calling it the "engine" that keeps people working while the S&D emphasise the need to push for innovative technological solutions. The Greens/EFA specifically note the importance of developing intermodality in the sector, saying "In combination with walking, cycling and car-pooling/car-sharing, public transport allows Europeans to compose their own intermodal 'mobility menu'".

Sustainability, social inclusion and "soft laws"

Though none of the parties were able to outline a specific transport agenda for the coming years, they did give an overall idea of their general vision for the sector. The EPP responded by telling us that short-term funding "undermines" the ability of the authorities to implement substantial projects, and that local and national authorites would be reluctant to push forward with such projects if there was a commitment to long-term funds. They suggested that fixing old infrastructure would be less favourable than investing in "major transportation assets", though they declined to mention what these assets might be. The S&D called for long-term, inclusive multimodal Urban Mobility Plans that are considerate of the "elderly, disabled and socially vulnerable", while ALDE called for more numbers on public transport, but pointed out the diffculty in posed by subsidiarity, in that it makes it hard for members to regulate on transport issues. They support "soft law initiatives" from the Commission, such as the Urban Mobility Package, but said EU co-financing via regional and structural funds shouls be used to foster public transport. The Greens/EFA called for better use of space and barrier free accessibility of public transport to all. The ECR emphasised the need for better integrated infrastructure and modern and smart ticketing technologies, while GUE/NGL stressed the need to develop a human dimension model. 

Awarding contracts should stay local

The current system of awarding contracts is supported by all the main parties. According to the EPP, "the current distribution of competencies is acceptable, as long as it is meaningfully monitored." They stipulate that it is "natural" that local authorities know better about their present and short/medium term needs, though they said that they may lack the ability to "plan big.” The S&D party agreed, saying that local and regional authorities should be responsibile for developing long-term sustainable urban mobility plans. ALDE called for more competitive tendering processes, while the Greens/EFA also agree with the current setup, though they also called for the European lawmakers to "concentrate on defining a clear legal framework and ensure fair competition.” This view was reflected by the ECR as well as the GUE/NGL, who said that the cuurent rules directly respond to the economic and environmental development of a region "and could not be bound by abstract competition EU rules.”

Liberalisation, so long as it improves service

The parties all support liberalisation, with the EPP attributing the success of the entire EU project over the past 60 years to opening of the market. The S&D cited concern that liberalisation should be a tool to create more competition and better services, and not just as a goal in itself. They also called for "stringent rules on passenger's rights as regards travel information and ticketing and strengthened social rules for railway workers.” ALDE stated, “We have always supported the liberalisation of domestic railway markets in Europe" because of a belief that it improves quality of service as well as prices. While the Greens/EFA agreed that liberalisation is a good thing, they said "it should not be a liberalistic dogma; public services need to remain a matter of public decision making. Liberalisation must not lead to a further oligopolization on markets.” The ECR emphasised consumers' need for real choice between services, without which there is no real competition, while GUE/NGL warned that too much free competition between operators risks multiplying costs for the system and for customers. 

  • Read the survey results in full here.

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