EurActiv - Letters to the Editor

Sir,

Regarding ‘EU seeks to shift freight to rail and shipping’:

The pro-‘Gigaliners’ lobby is arguing that the possible admission onto European roads of trucks of up to 25.25m long and weighing up to 60 tonnes would provide an increase in freight capacity while reducing transport costs. But are these supposed advantages real?

In fact, in the long run, Longer and Heavier Lorries (LHVs) would actually create longer queues and heavier infrastructure costs. The reduction of transport costs would lead to an increase in demand for road transport so that the “two LHVs instead of three normal lorries” theory would likely be replaced by a more realistic “three LHVs instead of three classic lorries” in practice and more congested European roads.

The other question is: can the existing road infrastructure handle 25.25m long, 60 tonne vehicles? Clearly not! Huge investments would be required to construct new roads, provide LHVs with dedicated extra lanes for busy motorways, widen roundabouts and access lanes, upgrade level crossings and road-over-rail bridges, enlarge parking areas and restructure terminals. Such heavy public expenditure requirements would be to the detriment of more environmentally friendly transport-infrastructure projects, such as rail.

Moreover, such vehicles would be very dangerous for human safety – they are not called “monster trucks” for nothing. Co-existence with private car traffic would be very troublesome because of the strong speed differential. An increased rate of road accidents is predictable. Supporters of Gigaliners often refer to positive experiences in Sweden, Finland and Australia, but does it make any sense to compare these large and sparsely populated regions to congested and overcrowded countries in the centre of Europe?

Despite rhetoric about “Ecocombis”, Gigaliners are a typical example of an eco-unfriendly transport mode. It is a fact that rail is up to five times more environmentally friendly than road transport and yet modal shift from rail to road is likely to happen if Gigaliner circulation is permitted. Such a shift would be totally inconsistent with all the European efforts made so far to promote green and sustainable transport modes, and in direct contradiction to the Kyoto Protocol.

And who would pay for the negative impact of Gigaliners? The answer is that regarding “Mega Trucks”, cost reduction is actually a mega-trick. While the apparent cost of road transport would decrease with the admission of Gigaliners, the true cost, including externalities that are not paid by the transport users themselves, such as climate change, air pollution, accidents, congestion and noise, would increase dramatically. As long as the full internalisation of the external costs of road transport is not allowed, society as a whole would bear the burden of these costs in the form of medical bills, insurance premiums, environmental mitigation actions, taxes and losses in company productivity.

Thus, for all European citizens with a care for their health, safety and money, admitting Gigaliners to European motorways would definitely be a giga-problem.

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