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Pat Cox: the man who… crosses Europe

Men who have come so far: an exclusive interview to Pat Cox, European Coordinator for the TEN-T Scan-Med Corridor

Pat Cox: the man who… crosses Europe

  Per la versione in Italiano:

We already had the pleasure to meet and interview Pat Cox when he was the Coordinator for the PP1 Berlin-Palermo project. The opportunity had presented itself during the VIATEC Fair in Bolzano, at the BBT Brenner Basis Tunnel headquarters (see “S&A” n. 88 July/August 2011 with

Eight years later we have found him in his role of Coordinator for the Scan-Med Corridor, that is to say that fundamental axis for the European economy which provides freight passage and circulation between Northern and Southern Europe.

The axis stretches from Finland to Malta, passing through Denmark, Germany, Austria and Italy itself, which is vertically crossed on all its territory, involving the industrial heart of Northern Italy as well as the ports of the South.

Inside this perpendicular branch, the Alpine cross-border connection between Munich and Verona represents a remarkable bottleneck, which will be “mitigated” by means of the construction of the Brenner Basis Tunnel (BBT).

A fundamental project which, together with the Gotthard-Ceneri base tunnel in Switzerland and the Turin-Lyon railway connection, will link a complex high-capacity network, in order to achieve the environmental targets set by the European Union and to ensure the intermodal shift from road to rail, which is necessary for the ecological future of the Alpine region.

Follow Line
1. Pat Cox in the Follow Line, between Oslo and Ski
“Strade & Autostrade”: “In 2011 we interviewed you in the role of Coordinator of the PP1 Berlin-Palermo project. Now we meet you again with pleasure as the Coordinator of the Scandinavian-Mediterranean Corridor: could you explain to our Readers which are the substantial differences between the two projects?”.

“Pat Cox”: “The differences are in the geographic extent, which now stretches from the Russian-Finnish border to Malta. As well as in the modes of transport, which still include railways but also include road, ports, airports, freight terminals and urban nodes.

In short, todays projects are both more extensive and complex than the rail only project that was PP1 Berlin to Palermo. Today’s corridor is multimodal and intermodal while PP1 was unimodal/railway only”.

“S&A”: “The main projects in which the Scandinavian-Mediterranean Corridor is generally identified are the BBT and the Fehmarnbelt (see “S&A” n. 128 March/April 2018 with and n. 130 July/August 2018 with which are the others?”.

“PC”: “We are currently working from the third iteration of our corridor workplan (for the full details see

For example, this includes the upgrade of the Palermo-Catania and the Naples-Bari railway connections, as well as the implementation of the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) throughout the corridor. In the road sector we are increasing the availability of alternative fuels along the corridor and the implementation of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS).

For ports our effort is to ensure that they are adequately connected to their hinterland with projects such as the Alpha-E in Germany between Hamburg, Bremen and Hannover in Germany”.

Scandinavian-Mediterranean Corridor
2. The TEN-T Scandinavian-Mediterranean Corridor
“S&A”: “As concerns the BBT, in 2011 we hypothesized the completion by 2022 and the full commissioning by 2026: which are the scheduled deadlines at the moment? When is the Scandinavian-Mediterranean Corridor going to be fully operational?”.

“PC”: “The BBT is a work in progress. Of the 230 km of tunnels that must be excavated to date, 103 km have been completed and the contracts have been signed for almost all of the rest of the excavation process.

Our current best estimate is that we expect the tunnel to be commissioned and fully operational by the end of 2028. The target date for the entire corridor is 2030 but many variables influence the completion calendar.

These include planning permits, tendering procedures, planned and unplanned geological and hydrological challenges and the financial capacity of Member States and project promoters. We are making real progress.

From the 822 projects worth 220 billion Euros that have been identified on the ScanMed corridor 142 worth almost 30 billion Euros have already been finalised by the end of 2018”.

“S&A”: “Are the projects entirely financed?”.

“PC”: “The most complex cross border projects are fully financed in terms of operational needs and planned future expenditure. All projects that receive EU funding are fully co-financed. However, there are also various projects at an earlier stage of definition and here, like the projects themselves, financing has yet to be determined”.

“S&A”: “We have recently interviewed your “colleague”, Ms. Iveta Radičová (see n. 135 May/June 2019 and, the Coordinator of another huge Corridor (the Mediterranean one) which involves Italy: we asked why, in her opinion, there are so many disputes on the Turin-Lyon’s project and not – even if with the same importance and length – on the BBT. We now ask you: which is you opinion about this?”.

“PC”: “As regards the BBT, when I started as coordinator almost a decade ago, there was a considerable degree of scepticism about a project long anticipated, well planned but only slightly started.

As remarked earlier we have already 103 km excavated, we have multiple information centres along the tunnel corridor, we have annual tunnel open days where tens of thousands of people have participated. Therefore, in my opinion, the more our project started to become a reality, the more that reality started to become a source of pride and not of scepticism”.

3. A moment of the TEN-T Days 2018 in Lubiana
“S&A”: “The Scandinavian-Mediterranean Corridor is mostly composed by railways, and there are other lines involved in Italy. Which level of development have they reached at present?”.

“PC”: “The Scandinavian Mediterranean corridor in fact is multimodal and includes 9300 km of rail, 6300 km of road, 19 airports, 25 seaports, 45 railroad terminals and 19 core urban areas. As regards railways in Italy, excluding Sicily there is a very high level of compliance with EU TEN-T regulation already”. 

“S&A”: “In particular, in February 2018 – during your visit to Sicily – you highlighted its strategical importance and its potential, although focusing the attention on the need of courage from the Administrators’ decision-making and of a better use of European funds. In light of the requirements settled for the Scandinavian-Mediterranean along all the perimeter by 2030, which is your point of view concerning the Sicilian situation?”.

“PC”: “We have substantial but limited resources and unlimited demand. For me as coordinator it is a personal priority to reach out to the entire territory of the corridor including in Italy south of Rome, Sicily and beyond Italy to the south, Malta.

Sicily as an island is in a special but not unique position on the ScanMed corridor. The focus from the corridor perspective is thus on the core ports of Palermo and Augusta and their hinterland connection, as well as on the upgrade of the railway network on the island”.

“S&A”: “Last year too, you were in Calabria to evaluate deficiencies and criticalities of the infrastructures in the Region. Which are your impressions?”.

“PC”: “Our visit to Calabria was a very interesting one. We met the regional President and Transport Ministers and had interesting discussion on the plans for the railway in the region.

Furthermore we had the chance to visit the ports of Villa San Giovanni and Gioia Tauro to learn of their challenges and plans for the future. Finally, we also had a discussion with the CEO of the airport of Lamezia Terme”.

Pat Cox
“S&A”: “Recently, both the President of Unioncamere, Carlo Sangalli, and the Vice-President of Confcommercio and Conftrasporto, Paolo Uggè, raised an alert on the unilateral measures of the Tyrolean Government for the limitation of the freight traffic at the Brenner Pass, considered as conflicting with the free movement principle in the Community area and a possibile cause of serious economic implications on the Italian Companies. Which is the current situation for the heavy traffic along the Brenner axis in Bolzano?”.

“PC”: “At the last Brenner summit of June 2018 in Bolzano we have signed the Memorandum of Understanding on the renewed Brenner Action Plan. Through this, we also have renewed the Brenner Corridor Platform and its associated working groups.

When their output is sufficiently mature in the coming months we would propose to convene a third Brenner summit involving key political leaders in the three states Germany, Austria and Italy and the five regions Verona, Trento, South-Tyrol, Tyrol and Bavaria constituting the Brenner corridor.

In future when our wonderful rail corridor project is completed, subject to accompanying public policy measures, we hope to see more traffic transferred from road to rail. In the meantime, led by the European Commissioner Violeta Bulc, we are attempting to address this complicated question. Clearly unilateral solutions cannot be the long-term answer to multilateral problems”.

“S&A”: “Let’s make a further step back in time but in order to deal with a present, extremely relevant topic. In 2016, CESE with Regione Lombardia organized in Milan a Congress to which you took part along with Representatives of the European Parliament, Confindustria, Syndicates and Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane. Particular emphasis was given to the importance of a participatory dialogue, to an approach based on the communication of Corridors as an opportunity (and not as a problem) or a source of controversy: did you expect more from Italy on this point?”.

“PC”: “We were extremely pleased to participate to Milan congress precisely because we believe that stakeholder engagement is indispensable to the success of our corridor.

We are pleased to see the high level of participation by italian Stakeholders to our corridor forum meetings and in particular with the assistance of some of the southern italian and sicilian ports. We hope to intensify our dialogue in the coming period”. 

Pat Cox’s curriculum vitae

Born in Dublin, Ireland, on November 28th 1952, he graduated at the Trinity College in 1974.

Among his many roles and activities, he has been working as an economist in the years between 1974 and 1982 and as a TV journalist from 1982 to 1986. He has been President of the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party Group (ELDR) in the European Parliament from 1998 to 2001, President of the European Parliament from 2002 to 2004, Member of the European Parliament from 1989 to 2004, Member of the Dàil Eireann (Irish Parliament) from 1992 to 1994, President of the EMI (European Movement International) from 2005 until today and, since June 2010, the Coordinator for the PP1 Berlin-Palermo project.

European Commission
5. Pat Cox with his Advisors Martin Zeitler and Isabel Royo Pla of the European Commission

He also holds various economic and non-economic positions in the “Trustees Friends of Europe” Board, at the University College Cork (UCC), Microsoft, Pfizer and Michelin.

In 2004 he was awarded the “International Charlemagne Prize” for the results achieved in the enlargement of the European Union and his commitment to an even wider democratization of the Union itself.

Mr. Cox has also been awarded several national honours by the Presidents of Bulgaria, Estonia, France, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania, as well as Honorary Degrees from Trinity College Dublin, the National University of Ireland, the University of Limerick and American College Dublin.

He is currently the European Coordinator for the Scandinavian-Mediterranean TEN T Corridor (transport) of the Core Network Corridor (European Union) as well as the Leader of Needs Assessment and Implementation Mission on parliamentary reform for the European Parliament and the Verkhovna Rada, (Kiev, Ukraine), Member of the Advisory Committee for Nominations at the EuropeanInvestmentBank and President of the Board of Directors of the Gore Street Energy Fund Plc.

  Per la versione in Italiano: