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UNIfication of accounts and marginal costs for Transport Efficiency


What is the purpose of UNITE?

Fair and efficient pricing of transport infrastructure use is a fundamental aspect of developing a sustainable transport policy that takes account of the full social costs and benefits of transport. UNITE will supply policymakers with the framework and state-of-the-art cost estimates to progress this policy.


UNITE has three core objectives:

  1. to develop pilot transport accounts for all modes, for the EU15 and additional countries;
  2. to provide a comprehensive set of marginal cost estimates relevant to transport contexts around Europe; and
  3. deliver a framework for integration of accounts and marginal costs, consistent with public finance economics and the role of transport charging in the European economy.

These objectives will be achieved by a European research team with significant depth and breadth of experience in all of the core areas of research.


Structure of the work

The workplan for UNITE includes three stages of: methodological development (year 1), empirical estimation (year 2), and synthesis (year 3). To maximise exploitation, key European and National decision-makers will be integrated within the project from day 1, through an Advisory Board and a Research User Group.

In the first stage the overall UNITE methodology has been established (May 2000) and the accounts approach and marginal cost methodology was created (November 2000).  These provide fundamental inputs into the integration of approaches.

In the second stage (from Autumn 2000-December 2001), the emphasis moves towards the implementation of the accounts and marginal cost methodologies, in parallel with the elaboration of the integration of approaches work. This second phase also includes substantial methodological development for both the accounts and the marginal cost approaches. In the final stage (January 2002) the focus becomes the determination of future strategies for developing the three core aspects of the project, and the overall consolidation of the research results. The need to support the policy development process means that in all stages producing deliverables early is a key priority.


Expected outputs

The key outputs that will be produced in the course of UNITE will be:


Wider context

UNITE is a part of the European Union’s Fifth RTD Framework Programme (1998-2002) in the thematic programme Competitive and Sustainable Growth.

It builds on previous European research such as the Concerted Action on Transport Pricing Research Integration (CAPRI) and the High Level Group on Infrastructure Charging. At the empirical level, projects such as ExternE and QUITS (environment) and TRENEN, PETS and the ongoing UIC study on the External Costs of Transport (multiple cost categories) have provided valuable evidence on the nature and valuation of costs. For transport accounts, examples of accounts for multiple modes are available for Germany, France and Switzerland, whilst focusing on the road sector, the UK Road Track Cost and USA Federal Highway Cost Allocation Study provide illustrations of attempts to compare costs with revenues for individual vehicle classes. A range of cost allocation approaches have been examined in DIW et al. (1998) - that work will be extended and developed within UNITE.

Looking forward, major dissemination meetings are planned for UNITE in September 2001 (Paris) and mid-2002 (Leuven, near Brussels).  Details will be posted at this site in due course.

Publicly available deliverables and conference papers will be made available through the linked pages on deliverables.