FIA: In your opinion, what is today’s most pressing mobility issue in Europe / in your country?
Kerstin Westphal (KW): In my opinion, mobility in urban areas is one of the most challenging policy tasks in Europe. Even if in some countries of the EU the number of inhabitants decreases nowadays, cities note a continuous inflow of new citizens. The existing approach to mobility is no longer able to present a fruitful and sustainable solution that harmonises the need of modern urban citizens and the economy. They are facing much bigger questions beside the normal transport from A to B, like sustainability, inter-connectivity, the environment, cost, etc. . Traffic solutions are therefore a key element to make modern day life in urban areas enjoyable.
FIA: Can you tell us about an achievement of yours that has improved citizens’ mobility in the last mandate?
KW: In this legislative period I had the chance to work on the revision of the Regulation of L-category vehicles (mopeds, motorcycles and quads) as the Rapporteur for my political group. I focused on safety issues. In contrast to the general decreasing trend of road fatalities, the number of dead riders of motorcycles remains constant. I was able to convince other political groups and finally the Member States to make anti-lock breaking system for motorcycles mandatory. It is a technology that can save 500 lives per year – from 2016 on it will be mandatory in all new vehicles.
FIA: How will you champion the cause of more sustainable vehicles and encourage consumer uptake of more sustainable vehicles during your tenure as MEP?
KW: I think that the market itself bears the success for a better consumer uptake. If you look, i.e. to other technologies like UMTS for the mobile phone sector, we remember that consumers hesitated, at first, to buy and appreciate this technology. But, by effective advertising and selling with a new billing system, consumers took up this technology and accepted it; it was the way of selling and not the technology itself, which lead to this success. I do not think that the technology is able to create that link. At the moment, there is not one single alternative power option for vehicles on the market, but many – and each one has it pros and cons. Consumers will buy the most plausible and secure technology with the best price.
FIA: What are the next challenges in terms of road safety? What could be done in your view to diminish the fatalities among young road users?
KW: In Germany alone, around 40 car occupants are killed every year in rear-end collisions involving lorries, while about 1,300 people are seriously injured. The main reasons for the high risk of injury are the weak connections between the under-run protective system and the chassis of the lorry. Studies show that the costs of improving the system are around 100 EUR per vehicle and that fatalities could be reduced by 57% and serious injuries by 67%. A EU wide mandatory implementation of improved under-run protective devices for lorries could therefore be one task to improve road safety.
FIA: Do you support a stronger legislative response to mileage fraud?
KW: In general, I support a strong response to mileage fraud. But there is already a lot legislation, some type approval regulations already oblige the manufacturer of vehicles to construct their product in so that tampering is not possible. Bear in mind the mileage fraud can nowadays be done easily with an illegal electronic device. To prove that this crime has occurred is difficult even for experts. Therefore a legislative approach will only be effective when surveillance authorities in Member States are equipped and capable to seek for and find mileage fraud.
FIA: Do you support the liberalisation of the spare parts market to improve affordability for consumers? How do you think this issue can be pursued within the European Parliament?
KW: A liberalisation of the spare parts market would need to proceed very cautiously with a very balanced approach: Innovation is based on knowledge and creativity and realised through investment – this system needs a certain amount of protection to support further innovation. Design protection for spare parts does not necessarily lead to abusive market behaviour. However, lower repair costs have also to be taken into account – lower costs lead to more repairs and to better road safety. A fair solution between these aims would need to be very detailed and would need probably a sector by sector assessment. The discussion of protection of innovation versus costs and consumer interest is not unknown in the Parliament so this institution is ready to play its legislative role.
FIA: Will you support the earmarking of taxes for the upkeep and improvement of European roads? When do you think this can be placed on the European agenda?
KW: The earmarking of taxes bears a lot of risks. A clear earmarking of a tax will give taxpayers a certain entitlement towards the national government that the tax paid will only be used for a certain project. But governments have to react sometimes on new developments which need quick financing – taxes should remain a flexible tool for this, earmarking would be an obstacle. The annual audit reports of each government present transparently the use of taxes.
FIA: Are there any other thoughts or issues that you have to add on the subject of mobility?
KW: Last year we had to vote on the so called “noise” regulation, a regulation which aimed to reduce the emitted noise of cars. I tabled many amendments to underline that the highest potential and most effective reduction of noise is not the car itself but the surface on which it is rolling. The pavement of a road could reduce noise 10 times more than a silencing device in a car. If we take noise reduction seriously then we have to help municipalities and local authorities to improve their local infrastructure.