On 23 October, MEPs voted to open up competition on Europe’s railways for freight and passenger traffic.
MEPs voted to grant companies free access to rail networks in rail freight and combined transport goods services in all EU countries by 1 January 2006 at the latest. For passenger services, the Parliament voted for a 1 January 2008 deadline for both national and international services.
This vote is expected to meet with strong resistance from the Council which refused to incorporate the opening up of passengers’ transport by rail to competition in its common position adopted in June 2003. For most national governments, 2008 is too early to consider opening up national monopolies for passenger traffic. France, Luxembourg and Belgium in particular are reluctant to move too fast with the liberalisation, seeking to protect state railroad companies to avoid job losses and trade union protests.