Break-through for small cross-border rail connections
The European Commission invests €140m in 13 cross-border transport projects in cross-border areas in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain. A €110m call for tenders was launched by the European Commission in October under the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), to fund cross-border missing links. The quality and expected impact of the selected projects led the executive to raise EU investment to €140m. The outcome of the selection process was presented earlier this week, after EU Member States represented in the Connecting Europe Facility Coordination Committee, green-lighted the proposal on 6 July 2017.
Local leaders and members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have being working together over the past few months to ensure the EU invests more on missing transport links between border regions, in order to boost territorial and social cohesion, market integration and competitiveness. The European Commission made a first important step in October 2016 by launching a call for tenders. The outcome of the project selection process was presented by European Commission representatives on 11 July during a hearing in the European Parliament. Thanks to increased financing, the call will fund 13 transport projects in EU border areas (see projects details and proposed funding here).
As highlighted by EU Commissioner for Transport, Violeta Bulc, during the CoR plenary today, this CEF call is a good example of institutional cooperation between the European Commission, the European Parliament, the European Committee of the Regions and the Member States. Its outcome could also contribute to the future design of CEF beyond 2020.
Karl-Heinz Lambertz, the European Committee of the Regions President-elect and Senator of Belgium's German-speaking community, remarked, "Upgrading and improving Europe's transport infrastructure is critical to get our economy moving. Investing in small-scale transport projects will boost regional economies, improve the lives of many communities and increase territorial cohesion."
Michael Cramer, Member of the Transport Committee in the European Parliament, commented: “The decision to fund ‘missing links’ marks a real break-through in European transport policy. For the first time in history the EU will support targeted investments in the revitalisation of small cross-border connections. The initiative was met with great interest by regions from across the continent, prompting the Commission to increase the available budget to €140m. The success of the Call for Tender shows the urgent need for such initiatives. We must now make sure that this does not remain a once-off decision. Small-scale investments are needed to complement the TEN-T policy that has so far failed to turn the patchwork of EU railways into a genuine European network.“
"I am very pleased that the call includes projects outside the core network, such as the connection between Heerlen and Aachen (NL/DE), improving the mobility of students, as well as connections for freight, hence improving the working of the single market at the borders", said Michiel Scheffer (NL/ALDE), CoR rapporteur on missing transport links in border regions.
After informing the European Parliament, the Commission is expected to formally adopt the decision by the end of July. The Innovation and Networks Executive Agency will then prepare and sign individual grant agreements with project beneficiaries by autumn 2017. The funded projects are:
• Connection of the intermodal node in Athus to the French railway network (BE/FR)
• Optimisation of the cross-border rail infrastructure in the port area Ghent-Terneuzen (BE/NL)
• Electrification of the Mol-Weert (Belgian part) railway line
• Upgrade and electrification of the Lohsa–Horka section and ECTS equipment (PL/DE)
• Improvement of NL/DE border Heerlen-Aachen Comprehensive Network section
• Construction of the second tunnel tube for the Karawanken road tunnel on the Austria-Slovenia cross-border section
• Rehabilitating (study) the Pau-Zaragoza cross-border railway section (ES/FR)
• ViA15: solving the missing link in the cross-border road infrastructure on the Rhine-Alpine corridor (NL/DE)
• Karawanken Tunnel-Rail (study) - cross-border section between Slovenia and Austria
• Cross-Border road link in the Atlantic Corridor: A25-IP5 Vilar Formoso-A-62 Fuentes de Oñoro (ES/PT)
• Removal of a major bottleneck on the North Sea-Med Corridor at Newry/Warrenpoint (UK-EI)
• A1 Belfast to Dublin Road Safety Improvements - Development Studies (UK-EI)
• Improvement of the existing Pafos-Polis Chrysochous (B7) interurban road axis (CY)