|GP/SP: National Transport Master Plan’s treatment of biodiversity (Romania)|
Timescales: 2015 onwards
Romania’s General Transport Master Plan (GTMP), which was approved in 2015, includes various provisions to protect biodiversity, but proposes a reduction in the length of the national railway network. The development of a GTMP was one of the conditions for Romania to receive EU funds for transport infrastructure under the EU’s regional development funds. The plan was originally submitted to the European Commission in February 2015, but the Commission asked for some revisions. On the basis of a revised plan, the Commission adopted the Large Infrastructure Operational Programme for Romania and agreed to provide the European funds foreseen for the GTMP.
As the EU regional funds are essentially for the development of infrastructure, the potential for damage to Romania’s natural environment was significant. WWF Romania responded to an earlier version of the GTMP, which had no provisions to protect biodiversity. A revised version of the plan contained most of WWF Romania’s suggestions to protect biodiversity. The first important provision was that for all future projects routes will be considered that avoid negative impacts on all types of protected area in Romania.
Second, the development of the infrastructure itself will include design features that aim to protect nature, including animal passageways and corridors, noise insulating panels and nets. Similar considerations will also be applied to the development of inland waterway transport, where the potential impact on river species as a result of any development will be considered. Finally, projects also have to take the time (and include the cost) to collect the necessary scientific data to understand the nature of the biodiversity potentially affected and to decide on the best course of protective action to take.
However, concerns have been raised about the decision in the plan to concentrate on upgrading only 60% of the national rail network. This 60% accounts for 90% of the demand and so is the part of the network that is used most intensively. The future of the remaining 40%, mainly local lines, remains unclear with some potentially being closed or managed by local authorities, although with no state funding. While it is recognised that the entire network is in need of investment, and so supporting the main network has not been questioned, the decision with respect to the remaining 40% of the network has been more controversial. The UITP in particular has raised questions about whether this approach is consistent with the EU’s goals of mitigating climate change. In response to such concerns, the Commission has suggested that lines should be closed only if all other possibilities have been exhausted.