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Minister Berner: The need to reform transport route financing must be resolved

Minister Berner: The need to reform transport route financing must be resolved

Press release 24.01.2017 15.44 fi sv en

(Finnish original released on 23.1.2017)

Transport network financing must be reformed, even if the transport network company model did not receive support this time around, stresses Anne Berner, Minister of Transport and Communications.

- Many major questions related to the funding and development of the transport network and reducing emissions remain to be solved. The division of responsibilities between the central government and the future counties also needs to be decided, says Berner.

- Central government funds are insufficient to maintain the Finnish transport network, let alone to develop it. Due to lack of funding, the Finnish transport network has a maintenance backlog of EUR 2.5 billion, which keeps increasing by EUR 100 million a year. We must find a long-term solution to curbing this major backlog, says Minister Berner.

- The transport network must be capable of responding to the requirements of citizens, companies and society both now and in the future. An effective transport network is the mainstay of growth, competence and employment, for which we carry a responsibility that extends beyond the electoral term. We also need a long-term investment programme to enable our transport network to serve its customers and provide preconditions for the creation of new mobility services, also in sparsely populated areas, Berner stresses.

Ambitious targets for reducing transport emissions

The targets for reducing transport sector emissions set out in the national Energy and Climate Strategy are ambitious. Transport emissions must be cut in half within 13 years by 2030.

- In practice, the transport sector is responsible for more than one half of the entire emission reduction target of some 6 million tons adopted for Finland. As this target cannot be attained by individual measures or cleaner energy sources, system-level changes will also be needed. This is the question for which the government must find a solution together.

Regional government reform to have significant impacts on transport routes

- As part of drafting the regional government reform, a decision is urgently needed on how the division of tasks and responsibilities related to transport will be divided between the central government and the counties. In the course of the preparation work, it has been proposed that the lower-level state road network be transferred to the ownership of the counties as from 2019. The counties would take control of the roads and the maintenance backlog, and the relevant funding would also be transferred to them, Berner explains.

The lower road network comprises some 70% of the state road network, or approximately 55,000 kilometres. It is valued at around EUR 4 billion.

- In the county model, the central government would divide some EUR 350 million annually between the counties, which is the sum it has invested in maintaining the lower road network up till now. Each county could decide how to spend the money and whether to take out a loan for additional investments. From the perspective of transport route users it will, of course, be vital that the counties spend the appropriation received from the central government on the road network, rather than using it as a universal appropriation to cover their other expenditures, notes Berner.

Work on transport network company report to be dropped

In April 2016, the government agreed that a proposal on developing the transport network on commercial terms would be prepared under the direction of the Ministry of Transport and Communications. The proposal was to be drafted in such a way that the decisions needed to launch operations could be made at the beginning of 2018. A great number of experts from the Ministry of Transport and Communications, agencies in its administrative branch and stakeholders took part in preparing the report on the transport network company.

- The starting point of the report was that the costs of mobility should not increase. It was agreed with Prime Minister Sipilä that the car tax cannot be dropped, and thus the transport network company will be unable to obtain adequate revenue from customer fees for its operations. No commercial basis for developing the transport network will thus exist, and any further drafting will be discontinued, notes Berner.

- I would like to extend my thanks to all those who took part in the drafting of the proposal for preparing a thorough report and bringing up bold new ideas. I also wish to thank the citizens and stakeholders for the valuable feedback we received. Our efforts were not wasted: I am certain that they will, in one way or another, serve the transport sector reform, which we must pursue with determination. We will continue to need the courage to look for new, open-minded departures aiming to develop transport for future needs, says Berner.

The Ministry of Transport and Communications is calling a halt to the consultation round on the transport network report and the discussion on the Ota kantaa website for citizens today. We would like to thank all those who already provided their comments and participated in the discussion.

Further information:

Ms Taina Pieski, Communications Director, tel. +358 (0)50 5351574 (requests for interviews)