EXCLUSIVE: European Road Federation and Department for Transport urge cooperation after ‘Brexit’ vote

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Representatives from the UK’s Department for Transport (DfT) and the European Road Federation (ERF) are urging continued cooperation in transportation, in the wake of a referendum, in which the Britain voted to leave the European Union (EU) by a margin of 52% to 48%.

Leaders in transportation are keen to mitigate losses and preserve relationships, particularly when it comes to projects involving connected and autonomous vehicles, which will require global standards in order to succeed.

The European Road Federation (ERF) is a non-profit association, based in Brussels, Belgium, which coordinates the views of Europe’s road sector and acts as a platform for dialogue and research on mobility issues. Speaking exclusively to Traffic Technology Today, Konstandinos Diamandouros (left), the ERF’s head of office, said, “Concerning infrastructure, what is very linked to the EU is European standards, which govern how you should actually manufacture road safety equipment. All this is governed by CEN – the European Committee for Standardization. But my personal view is that one way or another the UK will always be linked to Europe. So whether it is simply having access to the common market, or implementing all the safety related standards, whether to vehicles or infrastructure. I just don’t see the UK suddenly cutting itself off from everything that happens in Europe. I think a lot things will carry on being linked. So I feel that the impact will not be so severe as people fear.

“Even Turkey, for example, implements European standards. Turkey is actually a member of the CEN (European Committee for Standardization) and they don’t really have any realistic chance of entering the EU for a long time, if ever. It is likely therefore that the UK will similarly continue to follow the same standards in transportation, rather than trying to return to developing its own ones, as it has done in the past. Today European and US standards are the two benchmarks that define the global market.

“I can only imagine that a significant amount of legislation will somehow be retained, especially when it comes to public tenders for infrastructure. I don’t think that the UK would suddenly adopt something dramatically different. And if you look at the things that we are doing with infrastructure, trying to see how you have road markings that actually can be read by the vehicle. Here we’re not even talking about European, we’re talking global standards.”

A spokesman for the DfT agreed that relationships with the rest of the EU must be maintained: “The main thing to say at this stage is that we’re still a member of the EU, for the time being. We will continue to engage with EU businesses as normal and be part of the EU decision-making process for the foreseeable future. Although obviously there is a process that is going to have to get underway, and we’ll know more about how that will develop soon.”

Diamdouros does, however, sound a note of caution when it comes to research funding, where the UK could miss out. “The EU has a project called Horizon 2020, into which a lot of EU development money is put for developing new technologies,” he explains. “However, there is a route to rejoining this scheme, on payment of a subscription fee. You don’t need to be a member of the EU to participate. You can actually pay to have the same access as everyone else. Turkey and Israel do that for example. I really think that once things simmer down, I think in core elements relating to transport will be, maybe not the same, but I think the UK will somehow remain very close to everything that happens to Europe.

“I’ve talked to companies also and there’s a lot of uncertainty around it. But it’s simply unrealistic that we entrench and throw away everything we’ve been doing for the past 40 years. Companies have invested a lot of money to certify technologies according to European standards. They’re not going to turn their back on this because companies’ strategies will not change commercially. They want access to markets and they want to have at their disposal good, credible products, which are tested against credible standards. So I would see it as lunacy for the UK to drop it all away and say all this money we’ve spent on developing all these products just throw that in the bin and develop UK standards to compete alongside the EU and the US. Maybe that made sense 200 years ago, but not now.” 

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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