Fourth Railway Package unveiled

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Railways that hamper competition in their home market could be stopped from operating in the rest of Europe under a package of reforms published by the European Commission (EC).

The EC revealed its Fourth Railway Package (yesterday) January 30.

In it, Europe’s policy makers have recommended infrastructure managers become operationally and financially independent from transport operators to create a level playing field for European companies.

The announcement has shifted from the EC’s original standpoint, as it suggests that a holding structure could deliver independence with the right safeguards in place.

Under the new proposals, the European Rail Agency will also become a “one stop shop” issuing an EU standard for vehicle authorisation as well as EU-wide safety certificates for operators.

Siim Kallas. Photo: InnoTrans 2012.
Siim Kallas. Photo: InnoTrans 2012.

Simplifying standards across Europe will reduce the time to market and save rail companies an estimated 500 million euros by 2025.

Siim Kallas, European Commission vice president responsible for Transport, said: “Europe’s railways are approaching a very important junction.

“Faced with stagnation or decline in rail in many markets across Europe, we have a simple choice. We can take the tough decisions now that are needed to restructure Europe’s railway market to encourage innovation and the provision of better services.

The Commission is proposing that domestic passenger railways should be opened up to new entrants and services from December 2019.

National domestic passenger markets remain largely closed. Only Sweden and the UK have fully opened their markets, with Germany, Austria, Italy, Czech Republic and the Netherlands having opened theirs to a limited extent.

In other liberalised markets, tendering of public service contracts has shown savings of 20-30 per cent for a given level of service which can be re-invested to improve services.

The proposals must go before the European Parliament and Member State Governments before they are adopted.

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