Background and objectives

As set out in the Commission's White Paper “European transport policy for 2010: time to decide”, external effects such as congestion, accidents, health risks from pollutant and noise emissions as well as other environmental impacts contribute to current unsustainable development patterns. The conclusions drawn are that the completion of the trans-European network (TEN) and the internalisation of external effects by infrastructure charges are essential elements of a policy aimed at overcoming unsustainable trends in development. This clearly has implications for the evaluation of TEN (as well as other) infrastructure projects.

At present, evaluation of investments and policy measures takes place in a highly pragmatic manner. National guidelines exist in a number of countries, but these differ widely in terms of their methodology, level of detail and indicators. These differences are partly due to a natural bias of guidelines towards state level economic and social objectives – they were not developed for assessing international projects. In part, however, there are also differences in assumptions between countries in terms of the economic valuation of impacts. The existing guidelines at EU level (DG REGIO: Guide to cost-benefit analysis of investment projects) already was a large step in the right direction; however these do not provide indicators or procedures that are specific enough to act as a standard in the evaluation of e.g. TEN projects.

Guidelines from organisations like the European Investment Bank or the World Bank do include basic economic and environmental indicators but fail to provide an integrative view or to address certain EU-specific concerns. Project assessment guidelines based on harmonised approaches and comparable values are not available. Furthermore, there is a huge gap between existing evaluation practice and theoretical approaches. Quoting the EEA website: “The practice of strategic environmental assessment is growing, but links with actual decision-making are weak”. The Economic and Social Committee in a recently published opinion paper, expresses the need for an unambiguous and harmonised framework for socio-economic evaluation of policies, including transport. Contrary to Japan and the USA, until now R&D in Europe in this area has been highly fragmented, although first steps were taken in the EUNET and IASON projects. Another useful step is the Guideline document for TINA and now UNECE – Cost-benefit analysis of Transport Infrastructure Projects. However, all of these documents lack many of the numbers which HEATCO helped to provide.

Specific objectives were:

Starting point was the compilation and analysis of the national assessment practice in EU25 member states and Switzerland, which was carried out in the first project phase. Based on this, common definitions and consistent valuation methods were agreed. The framework is based on welfare economics and cost-benefit analysis.

The main focus of HEATCO was major European infrastructure projects, for which a sound evaluation scheme was established that in the long run may become a standard procedure.