EU transport ‘megaprojects’ are behind schedule, over budget

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union’s (EU) external auditor said poor coordination between member states is severely delaying the development of transports projects worth billions euros aimed at improving connections between national networks across the continent.

To facilitate transit, boost the bloc’s economy and develop greener transport modes, the EU’s member states agreed in 2013 to have the development of a core network ready by 2030, along nine identified major corridors. But according to a report released yesterday by the European Court of Auditors, six of the eight projects that have been scrutinised are unlikely to be fully functional by that deadline.

The auditors focussed on the construction of eight so-called “megaprojects” including four railways, one motorway, one waterway and two multi-mode connections worth EUR54 billion – including EUR7.5 billion from the EU – linking the transport networks of 13 countries.

They came to the conclusion that all them were delayed on average by 11 years. They said that “inefficient implementation” as well as changes in the design of the projects over the years have caused the cost to rise by more than 47 per cent, or EUR17 billion.

In Romania, for example, one stretch of a new motorway was unused and two sections wrongly connected, wasting the investment, the auditors said.

A man walks by the European Union (EU) logo outside EU headquarters in Brussels on February 25. PHOTO: AP

According to the auditors, the main problem is a lack of coordination between countries that don’t share the same investment priorities. They also said EU countries were potentially over-optimistic in their initial forecasts, and warned that some projects could turn out to be unviable.

Taking the example of the high speed railway project between Turin, Italy, and Lyon, France, audit coordinator Oskar Herics told journalists that forecasts for freight traffic to grow eight-fold by 2025 have been likely overestimated.

“Timely establishment of the core (transport) corridors is critical to the achievement of EU policy goals, supporting growth and jobs and tackling climate change,” Herics said. “Additional efforts should be made to speed up the finalisation of many of the EU’s flagship transport megaprojects.”

The auditors also noted that the EU commission, the bloc’s executive arm, had not done enough to ensure that the goals would be enforced in member countries. According to the auditors, the Commission has already paid EUR3.4 billion out of the EU money made available for the projects,

In its response to the report, the Commission acknowledged there is a high risk some of the projects will not operate at full capacity by 2030, but that most of them will be operational by that time.