European rail chiefs propose concrete measures for the future of rail to Vice-President Kallas

Posted: 4 February 2011 | | No comments yet

The CEOs of the three major European rail associations met today in Brussels…

The CEOs of the three major European rail associations met today in Brussels...

The CEOs of the three major European rail associations met today in Brussels with European Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas, responsible for transport. Representatives of the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER), the European Rail Infrastructure Managers (EIM) and the European Rail Industry (UNIFE) outlined key policy positions in view of the forthcoming Transport White Paper.

Siim Kallas

Siim Kallas, European Commission Vice-President

CER Executive Director Johannes Ludewig, EIM Executive Director Hendrik Abma and UNIFE Director-General Michael Clausecker gave their full support to the Vice-President’s vision that: “rail and inland waterways should take most inland freight on distances greater than 300km and a majority of medium distance passenger traffic (300 – 1000km).”

To support this, CER, EIM and UNIFE called for the full internalisation of external costs for all modes of transport in line with the polluter-pays principle. The European Commission has set forth ambitious long-term goals for the decarbonisation of the transport sector and its move away from oil. The rail sector actively supports this, but notes that decarbonisation of surface transport cannot be ensured unless concrete economic instruments are introduced. A single binding target for greenhouse gas emissions from surface transport is therefore indispensable.

The discussions then focused on concrete actions which would help the rail sector realise its potential, with particular attention devoted to high speed rail and to freight corridors and multimodal connections. The issue of insufficient investment in rail infrastructure, notably in Central and Eastern Europe, was also stressed.

The rail sector stressed that the development of European high-speed rail requires better connections between Western European Member States, and support for new lines in Central and Eastern Europe. The role of increased high-speed rail connections between Europe’s major cities and hubs was also underscored.

The rail associations highlighted their concern regarding the economic sustainability of the European rail network in difficult economic times. In particular, the situation in Central and Eastern Europe and the lack of political will in this region were discussed. Concerning EU policy, the associations asked the European Commission to help improve rail project development and implementation across Europe.

On the subject of rail freight, CER, EIM and UNIFE called for stronger integration between sea ports and rail, based on an analysis of European best practice, such as the new Liefkenshoek connection under the Scheldt in Belgium. The associations stated that the revised TEN-T guidelines and TEN-T regulation should further promote rail connections with sea ports and the introduction of positive incentives and/or targets for port authorities to encourage efficient co-modality.

Johannes Ludewig, CER Executive Director commented: “We are concerned about rail’s development in Central and Eastern Europe. We believe that a change of direction is badly needed, both at the national level and at the EU level. We cannot allow a two-speed Europe to emerge in the context of a backbone network industry such as rail.”

Hendrik Abma, EIM’s Executive Director, said: “The relationship between rail and other modes of transport will be increasingly complementary in the future, with rail using its obvious strengths over long distances. In particular, the rail sector is firmly committed to improve quality and reliability of freight transport through an effective and timely implementation of the Rail Freight Corridors Regulation. Therefore we welcome innovative initiatives from national governments and transport stakeholders to help multimodality come true.”

Michael Clausecker, UNIFE Director-General, said: “The success and economic benefits of high speed rail makes it increasingly attractive to a growing number of countries in the EU and beyond. Now, there is a window of opportunity for the European Union to take action in order to develop a truly European high speed rail network.”