Libor Lochman, Executive Director of CER and Global Railway Review Editorial Board Member
Speaker, Wednesday 5 June 2013
“Infrastructure and rolling stock financing are key issues…”
The Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER) is proud to have companies from the Western Balkan region among its members – and they have been for many years. The association’s main focus is on supporting a gradual and effective absorption of the EU transport and rail acquis in these countries as well as to fostering rail traffic on the regional network. CER has succeeded in strengthening its relations with these companies and their respective governments. In light of celebrating Croatia’s accession to the European Union, CER will organise a seminar in Zagreb at the end of June 2013 to discuss how to best use European funds for rail infrastructure investments.
With regard to the hottest topic we have today on our agenda – the European Commission’s proposal for a Fourth Railway Package which was published on 30 January 2013 – CER recently witnessed some rather bitter developments which also touch upon the Balkan region. After years in which the European Commission’s civil servants travelled to Ljubljana, Zagreb or Podgorica predicating that EU law foresees institutional separation between the railway undertakings and the infrastructure managers, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) recently published a historical judgement. The ECJ decided that, according to the current legislation, the holding model has all rights to exist in the current EU legal framework. In spite of that, regrettably, a number of countries have recently decided – without any well-grounded economic analysis – to change the structure of their national railways from a holding model to a fully separated one.
CER recognises that different governance models work in different countries and can respond to different necessities. At the same time, CER is convinced that a Single European rail system shall be created, but not via the imposition of a single governance model for all rail companies. The Fourth Railway Package – which redefines for the umpteenth time the legal framework for rail intramodal competition – is on the tables of both the European Parliament and of the Council now and CER will certainly commit much efforts in making sure that the voice of the sector is well heard by all legislators.
The problems which the rail sector in the Balkan region is facing are of course not limited to the search for the best governance model. Infrastructure and rolling stock financing are key issues if we want to foster rail freight traffic on the pan-European corridors. Governments in the whole area are still dedicating more resources to motorways than to railways. This has to change. Rail infrastructure is key for the development of sustainable transport as well as for a functioning economy. If, for example, the pan-European Corridor X does not manage to improve its quality and its performance very soon, freight traffic operators from Asia to Europe will stabilise their supply chain management via sea and road shipping instead.
It is also important to mention border-crossing procedures. If border-crossing procedures for rail freight are not streamlined by coordinating rail operators, infrastructure managers, customs and several ministries for each respective government, then no train will be fast enough to be competitive with other modes of transport.
CER will therefore continue its work in cooperation with its members from the region focusing on the aforementioned priorities. We also call upon the support of the respective governments from the region, as well as upon an ever stronger cooperation from the European institutions.
Dr Libor Lochman has been Executive Director of CER since 1st January 2012. Libor graduated at the Transport University in Zilina and has a doctorate in electronics from the West-Bohemian University Plzen. He has a strong background in Control-Command and signalling systems and prior to his role as CER Deputy Executive Director and Leader of Technical Affairs (2007-2011), Libor acted as Director of the Railway Test Centre, a facility for testing European rolling stock, infrastructure and signalling components, in Prague (2000-2005).