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European Court of Auditors finds 2/3 of EU-funded transportation projects underutilized

A report published by the European Court of Auditors (ECA)—the official institution that audits EU finances—found that two-thirds of urban transport projects co-financed by EU structural funds are underutilized. Weaknesses in project design and inadequate mobility policy were two of the main contributory factors identified.

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 underutilization.

Most of the audited projects were implemented as planned and were meeting users’ needs. However we have discovered significant underutilization 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.

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.

—Iliana Ivanova, the ECA Member responsible for the report

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 (US$14.9 billion)—€2.9 billion (US$4 billion) and €7.8 billion (US$10.8 billion), respectively. These projects help cities to implement urban transport such as metros, trams and buses.

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To address underutilization, the Court recommends that the European Commission should:

  • for projects subject to its approval, require that management tools will be put in place to monitor the quality of the service and the level of user satisfaction once the project is operational;

  • for projects subject to its approval, require that a minimum number of result indicators with re‐ lated targets are included in the grant agreements and are subsequently measured;

  • for projects subject to its approval, require that the estimation of the number of expected users is more rigorously analyzed and that the choice of the mode of transport is supported by a quantified comparison of different transport options;

  • for projects subject to its approval, require that urban transport projects are included in a sound mobility policy; and

  • require that the aspects mentioned under points (a) to (d) are also addressed by the Member States’ authorities when managing EU‐funded urban transport projects.



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