US Supports High-Speed Rail as European Cars Get Fatter & Wider: GMPB

Covered in this week’s Green Mobility Policy Brief: Cars Outgrowing UK Roads: Transport & Environment Calls for Stricter Limits; European Court of Auditors Raises Concerns Over EU’s Transport Sector Emissions; U.S. Department of Transportation Greenlights $2.5 Billion for Brightline West High-Speed Rail Project.

Cars Outgrowing UK Roads: Transport & Environment Calls for Stricter Limits.

New research by Transport & Environment (T&E) reveals that cars in the UK are becoming too large for the country’s roads, exceeding the 180cm minimum for on-street parking. The study highlights a concerning trend where cars are widening by an average of 1cm every two years, with the average width reaching 180.3 cm in the first half of 2023, up from 177.8 cm in 2018. More than half of the new cars sold in 2023 surpassed the minimum on-street parking space requirement, causing challenges for drivers and pedestrians alike, especially in densely populated urban areas. Large luxury SUVs, measuring around 200 cm wide, make off-street parking a tight squeeze, exacerbating congestion and road safety concerns. T&E is urging a review of the current maximum width limit of 255 cm for cars, which is equivalent to buses and trucks. If not addressed, T&E warns that SUVs and pickups will continue expanding to the limit meant for heavy-duty vehicles. Currently ranked second in average car width in Europe, the UK has inherited EU legislation on vehicle width, but changes have not been made since Brexit. The organisation calls for a mandated width limit for cars with an approval process consistent with EU regulations, reducing compliance costs for car manufacturers. T&E proposes regulations to be effective from January 1, 2030, aligning with changes proposed by the EU. The call for action is supported by various organisations, emphasising the negative impacts of wider vehicles on road safety, congestion, and public spaces. T&E’s initiative seeks to address these challenges and foster sustainable practices in the automotive industry.

A Turning Point for Heavy-Duty Vehicles: Stricter CO2 Emission Targets Set by EU Lawmakers

European Court of Auditors Raises Concerns Over EU’s Transport Sector Emissions.

In a recent study, the European Court of Auditors (ECA) highlighted persistent challenges in curbing carbon dioxide emissions from the transport sector, a crucial issue as it contributes 23% to the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Despite commendable reductions in various sectors over the last three decades, the ECA noted a continuous rise in emissions from passenger cars, responsible for over half of the sector’s output. The study focused on implementing the “Cars CO₂ Regulation,” the primary EU measure targeting new passenger car emissions. Notably, emissions began to decline in 2020, primarily due to increased adoption of electric vehicles, while combustion engine emissions remained stagnant. The ECA raised concerns about the accuracy of CO₂ emissions data declared by manufacturers, citing insufficient assurance stemming from lapses in required manufacturer checks by certain member states’ authorities. Delays in data submissions, cumbersome data-clearing processes, and a prolonged timeline for publication were also identified as issues. The report suggested that the CO₂ reduction targets for new passenger cars are not well-aligned with the EU’s climate goals for 2030. To address this, the ECA recommended increased assurance on emissions accuracy, using electronic tools for data collection, and refocusing emission reduction targets to address better key factors influencing CO₂ emissions.

La Soirée January 2024 Report – Implementation and Realism on the Minds of European Sustainable Transport Stakeholders

U.S. Department of Transportation Greenlights $2.5 Billion for Brightline West High-Speed Rail Project.

In a significant stride toward advancing sustainable transportation in the American West, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has granted approval for $2.5 billion in private activity bonds for the Brightline West High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail project. This initiative will link Las Vegas, Nevada, and Southern California with a 218-mile (350km) high-speed rail line, significantly reducing travel time to just two hours. The fully electric, zero-emission system, with trains capable of reaching speeds of 186 mph (299km/h), is poised to become one of the greenest forms of transportation in the U.S. Beyond its environmental impact, the $12 billion Brightline West project is expected to generate 35,000 jobs, boost tourism, and alleviate traffic congestion on the I-15 highway. Furthermore, the rail system is projected to cut over 400,000 tons of carbon pollution annually. The DOT’s approval follows a previous allocation of $1 billion in private activity bonds in 2020 and a $3 billion grant awarded in December 2023. Additional grants to the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority and a $25 million grant through the RAISE Program further underscore the administration’s dedication to transforming and modernising the nation’s rail infrastructure. Wes Edens, Brightline Founder and Chairman, hailed the project as the blueprint for future high-speed rail systems in the country. With nearly $31 billion already earmarked for rail investments under the Biden-Harris administration, this project is a cornerstone in building a safer, greener, and more efficient rail network for the nation.