The Council presidency and European Parliament’s negotiators have reached a provisional agreement on a revised regulation regarding EU guidelines for the development of the trans-European transport network (TEN-T). The new legislation aims to build a reliable, seamless, and high-quality transport network that ensures sustainable connectivity across Europe without physical interruptions, bottlenecks, and missing links.

Today’s agreement is a milestone for better and sustainable connectivity in Europe. The guidelines on the TEN-T network are a key instrument of the EU’s transport policy which will contribute greatly to strengthening the EU’s cohesion and to stimulating growth and jobs.

Óscar Puente, Spanish minister of transport and sustainable mobility

This network will contribute to the achievement of the EU’s sustainable mobility objectives, the proper functioning of the internal market and the economic, social, and territorial cohesion of the EU. The network will be developed or upgraded step by step with the new regulation setting clear deadlines for the completion of the 3-layer TEN-T network: the core network should be completed by 2030, newly added extended core network by 2040 and comprehensive network by 2050.

Main elements of the provisional agreement

The provisional agreement maintains the overall ambition of developing a coherent, connected, and high-quality transport infrastructure across the EU whilst considering the various starting points in member states, as well as their priorities and approaches towards a greener transport. Member states will decide how to prioritise projects of common interest in line with realistic technical and priority requirements aiming to a unified, high-performant, and fully interoperable infrastructure to contribute to the decarbonisation of the transport sector and its multimodality. These requirements, as set out by the new regulation, are proportionate to the expected benefits, to the functionalities and to the required investments by the member states. The provisional agreement also takes into account the available financial resources of the member states, as well as the investment needs for infrastructure development, which could be quite considerable, in particular on the comprehensive TEN-T network.

Deadlines for the completion of the network

The 3-layer approach of the Commission proposal was maintained with the TEN-T network being developed or modernised in three phases: until 2030 for the core network, 2040 for the extended core and 2050 for the comprehensive network. The new intermediary deadline of 2040 was introduced to advance the completion of large-scale, mainly cross-border projects, such as missing rail connections, ahead of the 2050 deadline that applies to the wider, comprehensive network. For example, new high-speed rail connections between Porto and Vigo, and Budapest and Bucharest, must be completed for 2040. To ensure infrastructure planning meets real operational needs and by integrating rail, road, and waterways, the new regulation also creates nine ‘European Transport Corridors’, which are of the highest strategic importance for the development of sustainable and multimodal freight and passenger transport flows in Europe.

Rail transport infrastructure

The co-legislators recognised the importance of railways in the shift to sustainable modes of transport and agreed new requirements that could generally contribute to the modal shift and to a better performance of the future TEN-T railway network. Provisions on the deployment of the European rail traffic management system (ERTMS) on the extended core and comprehensive network, the migration to European standard nominal track gauge, the increase of the number of 740-meter-long freight trains and the 160km/h minimum line speed for passenger trains, were agreed by the co-legislators with a view to ensuring sufficient capacity and smooth rail transport operations without interruption on the whole TEN-T network. Furthermore, the provisional agreement provides for the inclusion of operational requirements for rail freight corridors in the articles of the revised TEN-T regulation as they are considered inseparable from infrastructure requirements. Overall, the compromise agreement ensures better and faster connections for passengers and freight by rail, as well as better integration of ports, airports, and multimodal freight terminals in the TEN-T network.