Treaty in a snarl

Noisy vehicles through the Brenner Pass is not only threatening environment but also causing hindrance to the Transit Treaty

Published: Thursday 15 December 1994

-- THUNDEROUS rumble of automobiles and trucks through Austria's Brenner Pass threatens to shatter more than just the tranquility of the Tirol region. The Transit Treaty Austria had negotiated with Brussels as a condition for its European Community (ec) membership, seems to be in jeopardy. The treaty intended to restrict North-South truck traffic.

The treaty,made effective early this year, aims to minimise air pollution from heavy traffic in Tirol by at least 60 per cent by ad 2004. According to the International Herald Tribune, it is doubtful that the elaborate treaty, which measures progress by a system of "eco-points" allotted to each European country, where a quota of "points" is adjusted to account for the average level of pollutants emitted by its vehicles, has actually worked.

In September, 102,700 trucks and 809,000 cars drove through the Brenner Pass which links Munich with Verona via Innsbruck -- an increase by 9.7 per cent and 7.9 per cent respectively. The number of trucks crossing Austria through the pass this year will be 1.3 million. Less than half had passed a decade ago. "The Transit Treaty has not prevented a single truck from driving through Austria," says Friedrich Smola, a Green activist. "It's obvious Austria awarded the ec more eco-points than it would ever have been capable of using," said Smola, pointing out that an estimated 29 per cent of the awarded points were unused. He seemed convinced that the treaty will be shelved once it achieved the 60 per cent reduction in pollution levels.

However, an ambitious Austrian plan to build a 55 km tunnel from Innsbruck to Italy is in the offing. The project has acquired urgency because of Switzerland's decision to divert all foreign truck traffic. The Austrian transit traffic problem was dramatized as it is relatively cheaper for traffic to pass through Brenner. Now there may be some light at the end of the tunnel for Austria.

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