A report published today by the European Court of Auditors (ECA) reveals that two thirds of urban transport projects co-financed by EU structural funds are underutilised. Weaknesses in project design and inadequate mobility policy were two of the main contributory factors identified.
“Most of the audited projects were implemented as planned and were meeting users’ needs. However we have discovered significant underutilisation of the services provided, with two thirds of them having fewer users than expected. This also implies underperformance in terms of economic and social benefits, such as reduction of pollution levels and congestion,” stated Mrs 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. In that context, we have made five concrete recommendations to the Commission in order to improve the quality and results of the future projects.”
The EU auditors analysed the performance of 26 public urban transport projects in 11 cities in five Member States. For each project, the audit team met the relevant stakeholders involved in implementing the audited projects. The auditors also physically visited the co-financed facilities, and the operating and maintenance centres. They found that overestimation of users and the lack of coordination between modes of transport, parking policy and the absence of urban mobility plans contributed to underutilisation.
The proportion of the European population residing in urban areas is expected to increase from 73 % in 2010 to 82 % by 2050. Meanwhile, European cities need to enhance mobility and to reduce congestion, accidents and pollution through local mobility policies. The European Regional Development Fund and the Cohesion Fund co-finance urban transport projects in eligible regions of the Member States. The EU contribution, for urban transport projects, typically represents up to 85 % of the related eligible expenditure. The EU funding allocated to urban transport for the 2000-2006 and 2007-2013 periods was € 10.7 billion, i.e. € 2.9 billion and € 7.8 billion, respectively. These projects help cities to implement urban transport such as metros, trams and buses.