The 2012 ASECAP Study and Information Days took place from 27 to 30 May 2012 in Torino, Italy and gathered 250 participants from all over Europe. The successful event was marked by high-level discussions around the theme "Innovative TEN-T: towards a smart, green and safe transport".

An innovative Trans-European Transport Network

Time to turn smart, green and safe transport into reality

First day of the event was dedicated as usual to the political session which hosted, among others, representatives from the Italian Minister for Infrastructure and Economic Development, European Commission, DG Move, European Parliament etc. First part of the day one was dedicated to Plenary Session 1 Intelligent tolled roads: Bridging intelligent vision with intelligent mission. ASECAP President Mr. Schierhackl and AISCAT President Mr. Palenzona, both stated that ASECAP motorways have to respond to demand which calls for higher standards and are thus becoming more intelligent, reliable, sustainable and service oriented. ITS and interoperability are the tools which make the meeting of these standards possible along with the help of the police and car companies. Information to customers should be easily available and developing services in this area is one of the next very important steps motorway operators need to undertake. With the existence of different national and international services and numerous R&D projects and pilots ongoing, standardization and harmonization of services is necessary and common understanding among all involved stakeholders, development of road maps and programs and financing and funding are all actions that need to be undertaken. Regarding interoperability it is important to be careful not to have monopolistic solutions. Although EETS is still not within reach, bilateral interoperability solutions are available and regional solutions are the first step in achieving EETS.

Concessions: How much should we regulate?

Plenary Session 2 was focused on concessions and the questions of concession regulation. ASECAP members were given every assurance by the European Commission: the draft directive on concessions presented on 20 December 2011 will be revised to take account of their views wherever possible. Mrs. Szychowska from European Commission, DG MARKT pointed out that new rules are needed so that public expenditure will be more efficient. There are often a lot of misunderstandings about rules on tenders and concessions. While this is clear to tolled infrastructure operators the same cannot always be said for political authorities. These misunderstandings could well evolve into privatizations or forced privatizations that cannot be part of legislator's intentions. The idea is still to externalize services.

The greatest resistance of this proposal comes mostly from states that do not want to liberalize the market, that intend to maintain their contractual freedom, like France, or those like Germany that do not wish to revise rules at local level. The Commission has always presented the concessions directive as a lever to "boost growth and strengthen confidence" which states can hardly dispute. The Commission's pursuit of the public procurement directive has so far earned it criticism for failing to take sufficient account of the specific nature of concessions (public works concessions are governed at present only by Directive 2004/17 and public 2004/18 on public procurement).

Operators, while acknowledging the need for legislation, point out the different nature of concessions that justifies different legal treatment: public procurement is a purchasing technique whereas concessions are a partnership between a public authority and a company selected to build the infrastructure and operate a service, for amounts and a time period that can make the difference.

Also, there is a transfer of risks to the concessionaire that justifies different procurement rules, thus separate legislation. The difficulty lies in harmonizing legislations at member state level: operators have to cope with unfair conditions of competition (detrimental to competitors based in other member states) and legal uncertainty related to major disparities between national laws. She also informed the participants that majority of complaints have let to modification and gave some details regarding the award criteria where it was decided not to have any specific procedure for the award. Instead of imposing strict procedures the draft contains imposing a catalogue of guarantees that have to be filled out by public authorities. Public authorities have an option to use economically most advantageous tender or award criteria meeting only general requirements.

Duration of concession is one of the most controversial elements because of the tremendous diversity of concessions. It is not feasible to set a standard duration even though duration can be regulated in certain sectors. Most of the complaints and problems are related to changes of contracts. Mrs. Szychowska informed that in a lengthy passage on modifications, a distinction is made between what is substantial and what is not. Referring to everything said, motorway concessionaries stated that the need for funding is very high while the budget is really low. It should be avoided the new directive to deny flexibility to existing concessions, the rules should be clear and simple and it is necessary to take into account remark made by ASECAP representatives. They sent a message they will be extremely attentive. The proposal, presented in late 2011, will be revised and presented again with the aim of adoption by the end of 2012.

On the question of obtaining necessary finance to make the concession contract running, Mr. Barrett from the European Investment Bank stressed out the importance of a satisfactory legal framework which is crucial in order to obtain the financial means needed for the investments. In order to have a competitive economy a level of investment is mandatory and hence a legal framework. Quality of a regulatory framework can help private companies bearing the risks to be treated as public companies. New paradigms are needed for infrastructure financing and the quality of infrastructure planning and the quality of infrastructure financing are crucial elements. The Project Bond Initiative is designed to attract institutional investors to finance new infrastructure projects by enhancing the creditworthiness of the senior debt. The mechanism consists of improving the credit quality of a project by separating the operator's debt into tranches of senior debt and subordinated debt. The contribution of the subordinated debt increases the credit quality of the senior debt, which reaches a level where it will not be a problem for most institutional investors to conserve the bond for a long period. The target areas for systematic deployment of this financing mechanism are certain types of transport, energy and broadband infrastructures. In the end, the EIB representative briefed participants on a study by Moody's that assessed different projects over the period 1983-2008. The study showed that the projects with lower failure rates and lower financing costs were well-structured projects with solid contracting frameworks.

Latest developments in the transport world

Plenary Session 3 gave a short overview of the ASECAP annual activities and the works conducted by the 3 COPERs:

  • COPER I, Permanet Committee for the Present and Future Concession Schemes and Tolling whose Chairman Mr. Mesqui summarized recent developments regarding EETS. On the 28th of November 2011 the seminar on Deploying the EETS-challenges and perspectives was organized in Ljubljana in order to ensure members have fulfilled their duty and are ready for the deadline in October 2012. Although EETS Providers are not here there are ETS providers present in some countries and there is space for them to become EETS Providers. ASECAP Position Paper on EETS was sent to the Commission and both proposals, the one regarding EETS and the one regarding the concessions and public procurement are currently being discussed by the EU's colegislators.
  • COPER II, Permanent Committee for Environment, Safety and Security whose Chairman Mr. Rotongo gave an overview of the road safety actions which started in 1990s with the first Road Safety Action Programme, followed by the second one with a goal to halve the year 2001 number of deaths along EU roads by 2010. In 2011 White Paper on Transport was issued with 50% target reduction of road deaths by 2050. ASECAP Road Safety initiatives include organizing of annual Road Safety events from 2009, permanent contacts with EU officers in charge of Road Safety, ASECAP members' road safety enhancement performances exceeded the average EU roads ones and were in practice in line with the EU target for the period 2003-2010.
  • COPER III, Permanent Committee for Intelligent Transport Systems whose Chairman Mr. Camolino stressed out the ITS Directive and the member states reports' which were delivered last year in August. EC has been promoting the definition of services mentioned in the Directive through nomination of specific working groups. The European ITS Advisory Group was created within ASECAP. Most advanced priority action is e-call. He also presented a short overview in the fields of Easyway, i-Mobility, standardization, GSA-ASECAP and UNECE ITS Roadmap.

Mr. Dionelis, ASECAP Secretary General also presented the new structure of ASECAP adopted on the General Assembly the day before that also introduced COPER IV, Permanent Committee established to analyze transport data and statistics.

The second day of the congress was dedicated to 3 Parallel Technical Sessions-Interactive Workshops:

  • Session 1: Workshops on concessions and tolling best practices
  • Session 2: Workshops on sustainable actions: social/safety and environmental aspects in practice
  • Session 3: Workshop on understanding and deploying Intelligent Transport Systems under real market conditions.

All presentations and speeches can be viewed on ASECAP website: www.asecap.com.

Closing the 40th ASECAP Study and Information Days 2012, Mr. Čaklović, HUKA President announced and invited all members and interested personalities to register and attend the 41st ASECAP Study and Information Days 2013 which will be held in Dubrovnik in the period from 26th till 28th of May. HUKA is very pleased to be hosting this important event and we also take this opportunity to encourage all to strengthen their efforts to support this main annual ASECAP event allowing all our personalities and experts to meet, exchange ideas and develop good « communication corridors.

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