High-Policy Event 20

[Publication Date: February 2020]

Sustainable mobility across the Alps and in particular on the Brenner axis. This was the theme of the international conference “Driving through the Alps respectfully” with 120 participants, which took place on 6 February in Bolzano and was organised by the BrennerLEC project and in particular by the Provincial Agency for the environment and climate protection.

The topic of the environmental impact generated by the increase in transit traffic on the Brenner motorway axis (A22) has been a topic for many years. The debate on possible solutions has so far focused on road freight transport, both because of the measures taken by North Tyrol and because of the Brenner base tunnel project, which will be operational in a few years’ time. However, in Italy, the problems arising from light traffic have so far not been given due attention.

The project has shown that reducing the maximum speed normally allowed on motorways according to the contingent situations linked to pollution levels, traffic and weather conditions helps to reduce air pollution while safeguarding the health of the population. In addition to this, it also reduces journey times and fuel consumption, which also improves road safety.

The experiments carried out as part of the project have shown that light traffic (vehicles < 3.5 t.) plays a non-negligible role in air quality and road conditions. Indeed, the most recent data indicate that 60% of nitrogen oxide emissions come from passenger cars and light commercial vehicles, i.e. those that can travel at 130 km/h. Heavy traffic days are becoming more and more frequent due to an increasing flow of light vehicles and these situations have a negative impact on fuel consumption, CO2 emissions and thus on the greenhouse effect.

The experiments carried out so far as part of the BrennerLEC project, focusing on dynamic speed reduction, have made it possible to identify ways of managing motorway traffic that effectively tackle these critical situations.

The conference provided an insight into the project’s findings and the experiences already in operation in other European countries (e.g. Salzburg) and also looked at the great challenge of putting the Brenner base tunnel and its access routes into operation: the transfer to rail of large quantities of goods currently circulating on the A22.

The forthcoming opening of the Brenner rail tunnel raises interesting questions about how to regulate the transit of goods in Europe, particularly in the sensitive Alpine ecosystem, so that the economy can grow and protect the environment.

In the same way, extending the possibility of speed regulation on motorways, not only for safety reasons but also for environmental protection reasons, would be a more effective tool than simply the recommended speed

To this end, as early as 2016 the Council of the Province of Bolzano unanimously approved a request to the Government for an amendment to the Highway Code that would allow the maximum speed of vehicles to be reduced for environmental reasons.

The Italian government has also moved in this direction. As illustrated by the Ministry of the Environment during the conference, an interministerial agreement was signed in 2019 for a broad strategy to combat air pollution. In this agreement it is planned to draw up a proposal for the integration of the Highway Code aimed at regulating speed reduction on motorways for environmental purposes.

This opportunity for discussion and dialogue, strongly requested by both the Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport and the Directorate-General for the Environment of the European Commission, aims at promoting a rapid and effective evolution of the regulatory framework. The hope is that it is possibile to act in time to give the answers needed for a more effective fight in favour of the environment, climate protection and health. On the other hand, the strategic importance of the Brenner corridor for the European market can only be guaranteed in the future if a strategy for managing the flow of people and goods along this route that is both effective and environmentally sustainable is established today. Critical situations often produce innovative solutions which, in the short term, end up becoming reference models. The belief is that this can and should be the fate of the Brenner corridor.

High-policy event video (in Italian)

Phase 2 test results report (in Italian)

Agenda (in Italian)

Reportage nr.1 (in German)

Reportage nr.2 (in German)


The BrennerLEC project - Facts, proposals and prospects for making light traffic in transit on the A22 more sustainable (Costa, Autostrada del Brennero S.p.A.) [IT]

European strategies for sustainable mobility - Innovations in freight and passenger transport and EU strategic objectives  (Ruijters, DG MOVE European Commission) [DE]

Experiences from the many years of dynamic speed application on the A1 and A10 motorways in the region of Salzburg (Austria) - Modalities, effects, acceptance (Kranabetter, Environmental Protection Division - Land Salzburg (A)) [DE]

Clean Air Dialogue, Torino 2019 - Objectives and initiatives for air quality and climate protection in the mobility sector (Leonardi, Ministry of the Environment and Protection of Land and Sea) [IT]

The Brenner railway tunnel - Objectives and challenges for the transfer of goods from road to rail (Ausserdorfer, Brenner Base Tunnel Observatory Consortium) [DE]

The BrennerLEC project in the context of the EU- LIFE Programme (Lionetti, EASME) [EN]

Sustainability of road transport in the Alpine region - Current situation and outlook for the near future (Skoniezki, EUSALP) [EN]

The BrennerLEC project and the “AlpineBLEC” low emission Alpine corridor (Guariento, Provincial Agency for the environment and climate protection) [IT]

Assessment of the effects on air quality and reduction of CO2 emissions from the experiments carried out in the first 2 phases of the project (Giovannini, University of Trento) [IT]

Dynamic speed management and effects on motorway capacity - Effects of experiments and future technological developments in the C-ITS field (De Biasi, Autostrada del Brennero S.p.A.) [IT]