EU public transport funds not delivering, warn auditors

EU public transport funds not delivering, warn auditors

European Commission should stop financing urban mobility projects unless sound plans are in place.



European Union funds for urban mobility projects are not delivering the environmental benefits they should, according to a report from the European Court of Auditors.

The report, published yesterday (8 April), concludes that two-thirds of urban transport projects co-financed by EU structural funds have been underused. This was due to poor project design, a lack of general urban mobility plans and a lack of communication between transport modes, the auditors concluded.   

“This also implies underperformance in terms of economic and social benefits, such as reduction of pollution levels and congestion,” said Iliana Ivanova, the ECA member responsible for the report. “In these times of budgetary constraints, each euro spent from the European budget should effectively address identified needs.  

The EU spent €2.9 billion on urban transport such as metros, buses and trams in the 2000-06 budget, and this was substantially increased to €7.8 billion in the 2007-13 budget. The EU will typically finance up to 85% of eligible urban mobility projects. Most of this came from regional development and cohesion funds. The proportion of the European population residing in urban areas is expected to increase from 73% in 2010 to 82% by 2050.  

The auditors found that there has been little follow-up to see if the projects delivered the environmental benefit promised. Under the conditions of the new budget for 2014-20, projects receiving this funding will have to demonstrate that they are contributing to sustainable transport objectives.  

The report recommends that the European Commission increase its monitoring of the quality of service and level of user satisfaction for these projects, setting up a minimum number of result indicators with targets in the grant agreements. The applicants’ estimations for the number of expected users should be better scrutinised, the auditors say. One project in Spain was found to be only running at 18% of its projected number of passengers.

Dave Keating 

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