EU transport schemes not meeting passenger targets, say auditors

8 Apr 14
Two-thirds of city transport schemes that have been co-financed by European Union structural funds are not being used by enough passengers, auditors said today

A report from the European Court of Auditors highlighted weaknesses in project management and inadequate mobility policies as the two chief contributory factors.

Auditors examined transport projects in 11 cities across five member states – France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Poland – which between them received €5.3bn in EU funds. They included three railway upgrades, eight metro systems, four light metro systems, six tram schemes and one bus project.

Although in most cases the infrastructure and vehicles were built in accordance with specifications, four projects experienced significant delays and three had significant cost overruns.

Almost all the projects were found to meet users’ needs, but a comparison between planned use at specific dates and actual use showed two-thirds of schemes were under-used. 

As well as project managers over-estimating the number of likely users, a lack of co-ordination between modes of transport, parking policy and the absence of urban mobility plans all contributed to the low usage rates.

Iliana Ivanova, the ECA member responsible for the report, said the figures also implied underperformance in terms of economic and social benefits, such as reduction of pollution levels and congestion.

‘In these times of budgetary constraints, each euro spent from the European budget should effectively address identified needs. In that context, we have made five concrete recommendations to the commission in order to improve the quality and results of the future projects,’ she added.

The recommendations include a requirement to undertake more rigorous analysis of projections, and to improve the appraisal of alternative options. Monitoring of service quality and levels of use and that the number of expected users should also be improved.

The ECA also noted that the proportion of the European population residing in cities is set to increase from 73% in 2010 to 82% by 2050. As a consequence, plans are needed to enhance urban mobility and reduce congestion.

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