COMMONS

Changes to European Commission's 4th Railway Package recommended

23 April 2013

New EU legislation misses chance to improve cross-border rail, says the Transport Committee.

The European Commission’s 4th Railway Package, focuses too much on liberalising the railway in domestic markets at the expense of important measures to improve cross-border freight and passenger services, warns the Transport Committee in the UK Parliament in a report published today.

Chair's comments

Launching the report Committee Chair Louise Ellman MP said:

“There are some real problems with cross-border rail, such as high track access charges and different rules for authorising rolling stock. These issues affect both passenger and freight services, including operations through the Channel Tunnel.

“Unfortunately, the Commission’s proposals do not address some of the main impediments to cross-border rail, particularly track access charges, and there is no sign of practical improvements in border controls.

“Proposals to encourage cross-border rail have widespread support but could be put at risk by measures to liberalise domestic rail markets that are likely to be strongly resisted elsewhere in the EU and won’t significantly affect the UK.”

Recommendations

The Committee broadly welcomes the Package but recommends the UK Government should actively negotiate to ensure:

  • joint working between Network Rail and train operators is not prohibited or unduly restricted
  •  metro and light rail systems are not affected by the proposals to separate infrastructure and service operators;
  •  the UK’s arrangements for letting train franchises are not challenged;

In addition, MPs are concerned about: 

  •  governance arrangements for Eurotunnel;
  •  the maximum annual threshold proposed for rail franchises, which could prevent UK companies bidding for work in other EU countries; and
  • the possibility that the EU may become responsible for specifying the content of public transport plans. These should remain the responsibility of national or local governments.

Notes for editors
The 4th Railway Package is a set of legislative and other initiatives published by the European Commission on 30 January. The Package has been scrutinised by the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee which recommended that it be debated on the floor of the House of Commons on 25 April. The Transport Committee report will be tagged on the Order Paper as relevant to that debate.

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