Last week’s European Union budget agreement, which will see a third of funding cut from the €32 billion ($42.8 billion) originally marked for transport infrastructure projects, has been described as a “missed opportunity” by a collection of transport-related associations across the continent and transport modes, including Association of European Vehicle Logistics (ECG), the European Sea Ports Organisation, the International Road Transport Union and the Community of European Railways.

While acknowledging that the resulting €23 billion is a significant growth compared to the €8 billion that had been allocated in the 2007-2013 period, the ECG stated that the substantial cut will seriously affect the implementation of the transport infrastructure plan the Commission has been developing over the last three years.

“We are satisfied that the transport infrastructure envelope has increased, compared to the current multi-annual budget,” said more than a dozen associations in a joint statement. “Nonetheless, it is a missed opportunity that European leaders decided to cut a growth-stimulating sector. Last week, European President Van Rompuy said the budget must be an engine for growth and jobs in the future. It is high time for national governments and their leaders to realise that transport is the engine of the European economy. If people and goods cannot move efficiently, growth and economic development are constrained. In our view, transport therefore deserves more than a mere 2.4% share of the total budget.”

To avoid what it saw as a “first come, first serve” basis prevailing over the network the associations have called on European member states to engage with the European Parliament to make the budget more growth-oriented. It also said it supported the Parliament’s plea to have a mid-term review to assess potential reallocations of the budget towards growth-generating sectors like transport.

“In a similar vein, we agree that a certain flexibility within budget allocations would benefit its overall effectiveness,” said the statement. “Last but not least, a swift agreement on the EU budget will allow for progressing with implementing the new transport infrastructure plan, as outlined in the TEN-T and CEF regulations.”