• 17-DEC-2013


What is in the New Legislative Package to Create a Single European Railway Area?

What is in the new legislative package to create a single European railway area?
Today a new step has been taken towards a single railway area. The Fourth Railway Package is meant to modernise and better harmonise Europ's fragmented railway system. Since 2001 when the goal of a single European railway area was first formally established, cutting back national railway authorities power while improving cross-border competition and thus better conditions for investment have been key aims which have proved to be very ambitious.

Transport by rail is efficient and climate-friendly, but currently it only carries about 10% of European cargo and 6% of passengers each year. Belgian MEP Mathieu Grosch, who is the EPP Group Coordinator for the 4th Railway Package, drew an analogy with buying a car:

"When you put a car today on the market in Europe you can drive the day after all through Europe. But when you put a new vehicle on the rails tomorrow they need about two years to have a certification in each country and for each country it costs around 2 million Euros so this makes the rails so expensive and so slow."

The freight sector meanwhile, measured in tonnes per kilometre, contracted about 5 percent last year, in line with the economic downturn. The recession was expected to drive further losses in 2013. Grosch said greater efficiency is key.

Meanwhile railway infrastructure investment has been boosted by the EU over the past 20 years, and recently received a Commission pledge of 1 billion Euros in research and innovation to get more passengers and freight onto Europe's railways. Incentives designed to minimise disruption and improve performance on the network are also part of the package; this is to be managed by the European Railways Agency. A last key element is management independence for railway transport in the Member States, and better long term planning for financing infrastructure, to be completed by December of 2014.

This is ultimately about creating new jobs and a more efficient public service responsive to the needs of passengers and freight operators alike. For the European rail industry recovery to get back on track, all member states need to be on board and not miss their connection to a more efficient continent-wide system.