A system that works

A system that works

According to Wikipedia, transport in Europe provides for the movement needs of more than 700-million people, plus associated freight. The continent is divided into over 50 sovereign states and territories. This fragmentation, along with increased movement of people, has led to a high level of cooperation between European countries in developing and maintaining transport networks

Supranational and inter-governmental organisations such as the European Union (EU), the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe – have led to the development of international standards and agreements that allow people and freight to cross the borders of Europe, largely with unique levels of freedom and ease.

Road, rail, air and water transportation are all prevalent and important across Europe, which was the location of the world’s first railways and motorways and is now the location of some of the world’s busiest ports and airports.

The Schengen Area enables border-control-free travel between 26 European countries. Freight transportation has a high level of intermodal compatibility and the European Economic Area allows the free movement of goods across 30 states.

Rail transport in Europe

Powered rail transport began in England in the early 19th century with the invention of the steam engine. The modern European rail network spans the entire continent and provides passenger and freight movement. There are significant high-speed rail passenger networks such as the TGV in France and the LAV in Spain.

The Channel Tunnel connects the United Kingdom with France, Belgium and, thus, the whole of the European rail system. It is considered one of the seven wonders of the modern world.

Various methods of rail electrification are used, as well as much un-electrified track. In all European countries, standard gauge is the most important rail gauge except for Russia, Finland and the ex-Soviet states. The European Rail Traffic Management System is an EU initiative to create a Europe-wide standard for train signalling.

Rail infrastructure, freight transport and passenger services are provided by a combination of local and national governments and private companies.

Passenger ticketing varies from country to country and service to service. The Eurail Pass can be used in 18 European countries; it is only available for persons who do not live in Europe, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. Inter Rail passes allow multi-journey travel around Europe for people living in Europe and surrounding countries.

Air transport

Despite an extensive road and rail network, most long-distance travel within Europe is by air. A large tourism industry also attracts many visitors to Europe, and most of them arrive into one of the continent’s many large international airports. Heathrow Airport, London, is the busiest airport in the world by number of international passengers (third busiest overall).

The advent of low-cost carriers in recent years means air transportation is now often the cheapest way of travelling between cities. This has led to a large increase in air travel within Europe, resulting in problems of airspace overcrowding and environmental concerns. The Single European Sky is one initiative aimed at solving these problems.

A system that worksCheap air travel is spurred on by the trend of regional airports levying low fees to market themselves as serving large cities that are, in fact, quite far away. Ryanair is especially noted for this, since it flies primarily out of regional airports up to 150 kilometres away from the cities they are said to serve.

A primary example of this is the Weeze-Skavsta flight, where Weeze mainly serves the Nijmegen/Kleve area, while Skavsta serves Nyköping/Oxelösund. Ryanair, however, markets this flight as Düsseldorf-Stockholm, which are both 80 to 90 km away from these airports, resulting in up to four hours of ground transportation just to get to and from the airport.

Sea and river transport

The Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands is the largest port in Europe and one of the busiest ports in the world; it handled about 440-million metric tonnes of cargo in 2013. When the associated Europoort industrial area is included, Rotterdam is by certain measurements the world’s busiest port. Two thirds of all inland water-freight shipping within the EU, and 40 percent of containers, pass through the Netherlands.

Other large ports are the Port of Hamburg in Germany and the Port of Antwerp in Belgium. They are all a part of the so-called “Northern Range”.

The English Channel is one of the world’s busiest seaways, carrying more than 400 ships per day between Europe’s North Sea and Baltic Sea ports, and the rest of the world.

In addition to its role in freight movement, sea transport is an important part of Europe’s energy supply. Europe is one of the world’s major oil tanker discharge destinations. Energy is also supplied to Europe by sea in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG). The South Hook LNG terminal at Milford Haven, Wales, is Europe’s largest LNG terminal.

European emission standards

Currently, emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), total hydrocarbon (THC), non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHC), carbon monoxide (CO) and particulate matter (PM) are regulated for most vehicle types. These include: cars, trucks, trains, tractors and similar machinery, and barges, but exclude: seagoing ships and aeroplanes. Different standards apply to each vehicle type.

Compliance is determined by running the engine at a standardised test cycle. Non-compliant vehicles cannot be sold in the EU, but new standards do not apply to vehicles already on the roads. No use of specific technologies is mandated to meet the standards, although available technology is considered when setting the standards. New models introduced must meet current or planned standards, but minor lifecycle model revisions may continue to be offered with pre-compliant engines.

Global summit of ministers of transport

From May 27 to 29, a global summit of ministers of transport was held in Germany. The key political issue was how the transport sector can help make the climate negotiations in Paris (COP21) in December a success. Roughly a quarter of all climate-related emissions come from transport activity.

United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, sent a strong message to all transport ministers, by video. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Secretary-General, Angel Gurría, was present, as was EU transport Commissioner, Violeta Bulc.

The transport ministers of New Zealand (Simon Bridges) and Germany (Alexander Dobrindt) spoke at a press conference on May 27, which was webcast.

A hundred and fifty organisations and companies from the transport sector (a.k.a. the “Paris Process on Mobility and Climate Change”) explained how they would contribute to the implementation of climate change mitigation objectives.

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