Railways welcome Commission proposal on Trans-European Transport Networks

Posted: 19 October 2011 | | No comments yet

European Commission unveiled its proposals for the Trans-European Transport Network Guidelines & the Connecting Europe Facility…

The Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER) Logo 60x60

The European Commission today unveiled its proposals for the Trans-European Transport Network Guidelines and the related financial instrument, the Connecting Europe Facility. The ambitious proposals aim to integrate the transport networks of the new member states and to ensure adequate planning and financing for transport infrastructure. The Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER) welcomes the proposals, but is concerned about the potential costs caused by the introduction of far-reaching technical parameters for rail infrastructure.

A well-defined and funded European transport network is essential to economic prosperity and socio-economic integration in Europe. Infrastructure is also essential to the success of any transport mode. Unfortunately, rail infrastructure has seen poor levels of financing over many decades with serious consequences in some member states, such as exceedingly high levels of track access charges and speed restrictions, resulting in a loss of competitiveness to other modes. CER therefore strongly welcomes the Commission’s proposal to create an environmentally sustainable single European transport area, with the intention of integrating the transport networks of the new member states and providing the basis for a balanced development of all transport modes.

CER supports the Commission’s dual layer approach, consisting of a core network and a comprehensive network, whereby the core network is to reflect the strategically most important parts of the TEN-T network and will be the only part of the network eligible for EU co-financing. This will enable focusing scarce financial resources on projects of high European added value, such as the removal of bottlenecks and the construction of missing links.

Furthermore, CER appreciates the Commission’s commitment to co-finance parts of the future TEN-T core network through the introduction of a new Connecting Europe Facility which will fund pre-identified transport, energy and information and communications technology (ICT) priority infrastructures of EU interest. Under this new facility the TEN-T core network shall be funded with EUR 21.7 billion. In addition EUR 10 billion from the Cohesion Fund shall be ring-fenced for transport under the Connecting Europe Facility (i.e. the TEN-T core network). The result of this proposal is a stronger concentration of funds on the TEN-T core network and on the poorest regions. CER welcomes this approach as it could help provide financing for rail infrastructure where it is needed most.

It is surprising, however, that without consultation of the rail sector, the Commission proposes technical standards for the TEN-T rail network which go beyond the current Technical Specifications for Interoperability for Infrastructure (INF TSI). In the case of freight lines, they will require the technical parameters of category IV-F, which under the INF TSI apply to new lines only, to be also applied to upgrades on the entire TEN-T network. Whilst CER welcomes the general intention to create a homogenous infrastructure network, the technical standards presented by the Commission today will have serious financial implications for the rail sector and go beyond what is really necessary. At a time of economic and financial turmoil, such technical standards will pose a significant additional burden on national transport budgets.

The TEN-T proposal calls for greater interconnection between transport modes, with the aim of creating a fully integrated transport system. The Commission hopes that this focus on multi-modality will lead to changes in freight and passenger transport patterns, which in turn will contribute to the goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 60% by 2050. In this context, the Commission proposes the creation of multimodal core network corridors which will cover three transport modes and cross at least three member states. Although the proposed corridor platforms are intended by the Commission to lead to a simplification of existing rules through the streamlining of project preparation, CER worries that such a structure will add an additional layer of considerable administrative burden and possibly confusion to rail traffic in Europe.

CER Executive Director Johannes Ludewig said, “Together with the modal shift targets of the 2011 Transport White Paper, the TEN-T proposals set ambitious long term goals aimed at modernizing and decarbonizing transport. Rail is perfectly positioned for carrying freight and passenger traffic with high efficiency and low emissions within Europe and even beyond. The future TEN-T network will, however, require significant national investments beyond the proposed EU budget of EUR 31.7 billion. The innovative financing tools proposed by the Commission can help ease the burden on national governments, but more efficient financing tools, such as the internalization of external costs and the user-pays principle, will be necessary in order for Europe to realize the proposed future TEN-T network by 2050.”