Cooperation between all the different stakeholders together is vital to the future of road transport research, to make sure that society gets the new technologies it needs. TRA 2008 will provide a forum that brings together industry, researchers, and policy-makers, says Slovenian Tranport Minister Radovan Žerjav, elaborating together the research strategies that will provide greener, safer, and smarter transport for Europe's citizens. Here he takes time to answer some of our questions.
What are your expectations in respect of the Conference, and how are the preparatory activities for the Conference being implemented?
The TRA – Transport Research Arena Conference – is a new and dynamic project, with a vocation to take on a leading role in the world of development and innovation in road transport. We are particularly proud that this event is taking place in Slovenia, during its very first presidency of the EU. The focus of the conference is on all road transport stakeholders – such as managers, special interest groups, experts and users – gathering together to discuss future initiatives linked to the challenges of road infrastructure. TRA is where long-term visions and ideas interact with short-term activities; this is why the TRA 2008 programme encompasses the vision for transport infrastructure up to 2040. This is very important for Slovenia, because as citizens of Europe we would like to see important infrastructure investments fulfilling the needs of future generations. TRA 2008 will provide some answers to the question of what society, infrastructure, means of transport, and traffic routes will look like in the next generation.
The Ministry of Transport is heavily involved in the preparation of this event which is extremely important for Slovenia, and as a line Minister, I am looking forward to it.
Can Slovenia join other European experts in seeking "Greener, Safer and Smarter Road Transport for Europe"?
Slovenia is one of the greenest areas in Europe, and we would like to keep it so. Another particular concern is the safety of our roads, where fatal accidents are still unacceptably high. Therefore, we hope that this conference will be a step forward towards greener and safer roads for ourselves, and throughout Europe.
Exchange of opinions and practices are as vital for us as they are for road transport stakeholders in other countries. For Slovenia, the conference is an opportunity to seek solutions for our specific challenges, as it will be for each one of the conference's delegates. Our particular problems, for instance, relate to long-distance transport. As you may know, Slovenia is crossed by two European transport corridors, along which freight transport has been growing exponentially, resulting in severe environmental damage. Unfortunately, Slovenia has not included the introduction of new transport technologies into its development programmes yet. We are aware, however, that measures in this field will be necessary. Exchanges with other road transport stakeholders will help us in this process.
To what extent can students contribute to the quality of life of our citizens and to our economy?
Students – and the younger generation as a whole – are the future of each country. Therefore, we pay significant attention to education. For example, the field of civil engineering has been exposed to fast progress and knowledge transfers in the past decade, thanks to the construction of our national motorway network. Slovenia’s educational system might now require adjustments to allow an early involvement in new technological trends.
I have significant expectations for the competition for students doing research in the area of road transport, who will have an opportunity to show their results in Ljubljana; and I hope that some Slovenian students will be among them.
In which way is Slovenia involved in resolving climate changes?
Despite being a small country, we fall among relatively well-developed countries in terms of industry, contributing a significant part to the worsening of climate conditions, whether intentionally or unconsciously. We have an active approach to tackling climate change: we seek to improve all contributing factors, from the climate impact of local industry, to the impact resulting from road transport.
With regards to transport, we particularly wish to improve our vehicle fleet, and other environmental challenges such as noise, CO2 emissions, and the quality of air. This will be supported by the introduction of new technologies, enabling a higher quality of life for our citizens.
What would you point out as the most important aspect of TRA 2008?
This meeting of experts, visionaries, and politicians will strengthen the foundations of cooperation between different types of stakeholders, thus pointing the way to the solutions our society needs for sustainable, state-of-the-art transport.