Commission to present second railway package

On 23 January, the Commission will present a communication and five new legislative proposals to revitalise the European railway industry. This so-called “second railway package” includes proposals for opening up Member States’ goods transport systems to competition, new measures on rail safety and interoperability, the creation of a European Rail Agency for safety and interoperability, and the EU’s membership of the Intergovernmental Organisation for International Carriage by rail (OTIF).

The Commission’s plans to revitalise the rail sector might well be threatened by national interests. Currently, the rail industry gets national subsidies of over 30 billion euro. National governments have always had a strong hold over the rail sector in several Member States.

 

Member States that have opened their railways to competition (such as the UK and Sweden) are in favour of liberalisation, whereas others want to keep a grip on their national railway industries (esp. France).

Several rail freight customers have joined forces to influence the Commission's efforts on realising a single European rail freight market. They established the European Rail Freight Customers' Platform (ERFCP) in December 2001. Founding members of the ERFCP are UNICE, CEFIC, USINOR, DSM, Shell Chemicals, Mars and others.

 

In its Transport White Paper of 12 September 2001, the Commission expressed its intention to shift the balance between modes of transport by revitalising the railways. Over the last decades, European railways saw their share of freight transport fall from 21 to 8 percent (in comparison: in the US rail haulage accounts for 40 percent - source: White Paper).

 

The Commission is expected to present its proposals on Wednesday 23 January. It would like to move the dossier forward during the Spanish presidency. The Barcelona Council of 15-16 March will probably be invited to adopt a declaration on this issue.

 

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