European Parliament takes tougher stand on EU road infrastructure safety standards

  • April 17, 2023

The European Parliament’s transport committee wants to push Member States to agree to a wider scope for the roads covered by proposed safety upgrades to the trans-european network (TEN-T) of main European roads.

Back in December 2021, the European Commission proposed an update to the existing rules including requirements for separate carriageways, no crossing of other roads, railways or cycle paths at the same level, and no access to properties bordering the roads.  These rules are standard on motorways, but the TEN-T core and extended networks include many rural roads that were not built to motorway standard.  According to the Commission proposal, Member States would have until 2040 to upgrade the ‘core network’ which connects the biggest cities, and 2050 for the ‘comprehensive network’ which connects other important towns and cities.

According to a European Council document agreed at the beginning of December, Member States want to go faster when it comes to the core network, with an earlier deadline of 2030.  However, they removed references to the comprehensive network, and instead say the ‘extended core’, which would cover fewer roads, should be complete by 2040.  ETSC says this would substantially reduce the safety potential of the legislation.

Earlier this month, the European Parliament’s transport committee voted on their take on the proposals. The committee wants to keep the coverage and the timetable in line with the Commission’s original proposal but has added a number of improvements which ETSC have welcomed. MEPs have tightened up the requirements for the standards for low traffic volume roads, to ensure they meet the ‘high’ safety category required by the EU’s infrastructure safety management directive. The committee also says it wants safe and secure parking for freight traffic, with a deadline of 2040, ten years earlier than in the original Commission proposal. And, recognising the poor state of many TEN-T roads in Europe, the committee also wants maintenance requirements set in the rules as well as safety standards for vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists in place by 2025.

MEPs also want to make sustainable urban mobility plans, known as SUMPs, a prerequisite for EU funding for road infrastructure projects in urban areas.

Finally, with an eye on higher levels of automation in new vehicles, MEPs want the Commission to deliver common minimum standards for road markings and road signage so they can be more easily read by both human drivers and vehicle vision systems.

The final version of the legislation will now be hammered out in a series of so-called trialogue negotiations between representatives of the Commission, Parliament and Member States.  

See also: ETSC’s briefing to the Swedish presidency of the European Union January – June 2023