Roads, railways and air corridors are the arteries that supply and connect the nations of Europe. Without transport, the continent would grind to a halt. The Covid crisis has underlined just how crucial mobility is to our lives.
But how can we square that importance with the big challenges of the future: reducing carbon emissions, e-cars, a revolution in rail transport? A short-term decarbonization of air travel appears unfeasible. So, should we stop travelling long distances? Or perhaps use other forms of transport to get around the continent? And if so, which ones?
Cars and even bikes are assembled from parts that are first shipped from all over the world by boat or plane. Once assembled, they yet again cover thousands of kilometers on polluting trucks before finally reaching the consumer. Europe’s economy and infrastructure are geared up for global trade. Today, the systems are stretched to their limits.
Switzerland is pursuing rail transport as an interesting alternative. With public consent, polluting energies were taxed, huge investments were made in the railway, and piggyback transport and trucks were banned from the roads. But Switzerland is a lone wolf in this regard. Most European nations are now throwing their weight behind electric cars. They’re cleaner, cheaper to run than combustion vehicles and someday soon, they could even be driverless. Nevertheless, they also prompt questions about the use of the car, still a status symbol for many people today.
When it comes to rethinking their economic model, some companies are still finding mobility to be a challenge. But in view of competition from Asia, the trusty old gas station could very soon be a thing of the past. For sure, renouncing the combustion engine won’t be enough. Green mobility is, and remains, one of the biggest challenges facing Europe today.
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