At the beginning of the 1990s, the then 12 Member States of the EU took the decision to establish an EU-wide, transport, energy and telecommunications infrastructure policy to improve the functioning of the internal market and connections to the global economy.
Establishment of TEN-T Policy
The first ‘Community Guidelines’ for the development of this trans-European network in the area of transport were adopted by the European Parliament and European Council in July 1996. These guidelines incorporated a ‘Master Plan’, detailing the connection of major national road, rail and waterway networks between Member States, with the aim of relieving major European bottlenecks by addressing issues such as capacity restrictions and cross-border incompatibility.
The guidelines were amended in 1999 to include rules for the granting of EC and EU funding of Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) projects. The amended guidelines also provided a reference framework for Member States undertaking the development of national level infrastructure policy. In addition to the amended guidelines, further regulations governing EC and EU funding of TEN-T have also been produced for each of the EU’s budgetary periods: 1995 to 1999, 2000 to 2006, 2007 to 2013 and 2014 to 2020.
TEN-T Priority Projects
From the outset, TEN-T guidelines incorporated a series of flagship ‘Priority Projects’, allocated priority status due their strategic importance and/or significant scale. This initial list was extended at the time of the EU’s 2004 enlargement to incorporate changes to the EU’s geographical makeup and corresponding new demands placed upon the its transport infrastructure.
The Priority Projects possess a clear focus on the need for the development of new, more sustainable transport systems, with 18 of the now 30 Priority Projects focused upon rail, three upon the development of rail-road systems, and two upon inland waterways. Motorways of the Sea (MoS) also entered TEN-T policy as a Priority Project, following its introduction via the 2001 White Paper, European transport policy for 2010: time to decide. Today the 30 Priority Projects form an integral part of the Core Network Corridors policy, with MoS and various rail and inland waterway priorities at the heart of efforts to provide competitive, more sustainable alternatives to road transport.
2009 TEN-T Policy Review
In 2009, the EC took the decision to launch a TEN-T policy review, with a view to further honing TEN-T policy ahead of the (then upcoming) budgetary period, 2014 to 2020. The review assessed successes and failures of TEN-T policy between 1996 and 2009, acquiring and incorporating the views of technical experts and a broad range of stakeholders through a series of formal consultations and talks at TEN-T Days events. Following the review, a new policy framework was established, taking TEN-T policy forwards in a number of key areas including governance at European level, the provision of a strong legal framework, and new mechanisms for TEN-T funding.
Core Network Corridors
In 2014 a new set of TEN-T guidelines were introduced setting out a clear path forwards for investment and action between 2014 and 2030. This new policy is built upon the concept of an integrated, multimodal, core network of corridors, linking major nodes (urban nodes, ports, airports and other transport terminals) through key rail, road, inland waterway, maritime and air transport connections. This network approach represents something of a departure from the more individualised, project-based approach of previous years; integrating geographical, technological, economic and environmental factors for a more cohesive policy and planning approach.
The Core Network Corridors are principally based upon three pillars:
• Enhancing cross-border connections and removing bottlenecks
• Integrating different transport modes (multi-modality)
• Promoting technical interoperability
These corridors are led by European Coordinators; high-level personalities with long standing experience in transport, financing and European politics, nominated by the European Commission. The Coordinators are assisted by Corridor Fora consisting of relevant stakeholders, where issues relating to the development of the corridors can be discussed.
The Core Network Corridors now lie at the heart of TEN-T policy, with each corridor possessing its own Work Plan. By factoring in elements and needs of other corridors, they play a key role in the coordinated implementation of the TEN-T network with tailor made policy, planning and finance packages providing for a 360 integrated approach to TEN-T infrastructure planning, funding and delivery.
TEN-T into the Future
More than a quarter of a century and four enlargements on from its inception, the TEN-T continues to enjoy a steady rate of progress. Over the years TEN-T policy has sought to incorporate the rapid speed of technological innovation within its planning and policy making processes and has taken measures to future-proof long-term infrastructure projects. Sustainability has also increasingly become a cornerstone of TEN-T policy, with the importance of reducing emissions from freight traffic, in particular, emphasised by the incorporation of MoS within the TEN-T policy framework. Nevertheless, a great deal remains to be done, both in terms of the delivery of physical infrastructures, and also in terms of the continued development of complimentary policy and funding mechanisms.