The European Union is set to abandon daylight saving time in 2021. Here’s why transportation officials have a final say on making it happen.
Starting in 2021, the European Union will say goodbye to daylight saving time. After years of discussion, members of the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to abolish the practice of turning the clocks forward and back by one hour each spring and autumn.
While this is a significant pronouncement for a parliament that doesn’t get much coverage, the real force behind the decision lies elsewhere—not just in Europe’s national governments, but specifically in their transportation ministers. Those ministers already thrashed out a loose agreement in October; to make it final, they need to ratify parliament’s decision at a meeting later this year.
But why do transportation ministers get the final word on what time of day it is? It might seem odd, given that clock changes affect people regardless of whether or not they are on the move. But their authority comes from the very real fact that disagreements in time-keeping systems can be especially cumbersome—and potentially dangerous—when it comes to transportation networks.
It’s not just that headaches could emerge over, say, train timetables. European ministers have expressed fears that a “patchwork” approach to daylight saving could cause air traffic control problems, with planes flying in and out of different time pockets as they cross the continent. In a largely borderless union where airports, some major railway stations, and even a few public transit systemsserve more than one country, the potential for transit chaos from mismatching clocks is substantial.