EU: Establishing a Single European railway area - A Rail Transport Network fit for the 21st Century?
At the July Plenary in Strasbourg MEPs voted in favour of a directive establishing a single European railway area (recast) at its Second Reading. The agreement between the European Parliament (EP) and the Council will see existing railway legislation enhanced and merged in order to establish a single European railway area across the European Union (EU). The first railway package, which consisted of three directives 2001/12/EC, 2001/13/EC and 2001/14/EC), was substantially amended in 2004 (second package) and 2007 (third package) in an attempt to revitalise rail transport.
The idea being to increase rail transport's competitiveness by privatisation as most rail networks were, and many still are, largely in the hands of state monopolies (confined to their national markets) by gradually opening it to competition at Europe-wide level. Since then the market for rail freight transport has also been liberalised (2007) and the same for international passenger services (2010). Unfortunately these reforms have had little effect on the situation of Europe's railways which have failed to catch up with other modes of transport, particularly road, over the subsequent decade.
The new EU rules, which will come into force by the end of the year, will allow more competition in the rail market. Siim Kallas, Vice-President and Commissioner responsible for Transport said, "The new rules (Rail Recast Directive) tackle 3 major problems on the market: (1) strengthening the power of national regulators; (2) improving the framework for investment in rail (3) ensuring fair access to rail infrastructure and rail related services. They are a direct response to many complaints from operators in recent years. These new rules will very significantly change the way competition works on the rail market. This is a very substantial step forwards. At last we can close loopholes in the current laws that can allow discrimination against newcomers and block operators from providing new and innovative services. The high level of ambition of the European Parliament, is particularly encouraging as we look to the next package of measures to develop services on the rail market that the Commission will propose by the end of the year." (IP/12/733)
It is hoped that the current agreement will lead to independent national rail regulators which will be expected to ensure fair competition and obligated to handle complaints within a maximum of four months. The new rules should also provide a basis for funding rail network infrastructure over five-year periods. The establishment of a single European railway area should also give all rail operators fair access to a wider range of services (including ticketing sales, station facilities, marshalling yards, repair and maintenance installations, etc) besides guaranteeing them equal access to the rail network. (Answers to frequently asked questions on the recast of the first railway package are available in MEMO/12/520)
"The Single European railway area and the European Train Control System (ETCS)" can be read here
Last Updated (Wednesday, 13 February 2013 17:25)