Lords report on the future of rail freight in Europe
02 June 2009
The House of Lords EU Committee have today called for the European Commission’s recast of the First Railway Package to include provisions that would stop the same companies acting as both infrastructure managers and train operators
The Committee calls on the Commission to amend the provisions in the First Railways Package, adopted in 2001, which currently allow the two distinct functions to remain within the same holding company provided there is separate accounting and independence of decision making – a so called 'Chinese wall' between the different parts of the organisation.
The Committee argue these provisions do not do enough to ensure open markets for other rail freight operators and so has restricted the growth of rail as a means of transporting freight across Europe. They argue that accounting separation "no matter how well regulated, leaves room for unfair practices." The report calls for the Commission to demand full separation of infrastructure managers and rail operators.
The Committee also make the following recommendations on areas the European Commission should focus on in recasting the railway package:
- The Commission should focus on enforcement of current provisions in the First Railway Package, including stricter demands for independent and powerful rail regulators in every Member State with a rail network.
- The Committee does not support the establishment of a Europe wide rail regulator but does recommend national regulators and rail infrastructure managers co-operate on cross border issues to encourage greater use of rail in freight transportation.
- The recast should seek to reduce infrastructure charges levied on train operators by requiring Member States to agree multi-annual contracts with infrastructure managers and giving detailed guidance on which costs and mark-ups infrastructure managers can include in their access charges.
- The Commission should ensure infrastructure managers do not discriminate between train operators in charges levied for 'last mile services.'
- The Commission should consider changing some elements of the package from Directives to Regulations.
Commenting Lord Freeman, Chairman of the House of Lords EU Committee on the Internal Market, said:
"As Europe struggles to meet its ambitious targets to reduce CO2 emissions, getting freight off our roads and on to less polluting railways will have a vital part to play.
"For that reason it is important the European Commission gets it right in recasting the railway package. We believe it essential for the rail market to be open and fair if the EU wants to increase the amount of freight that travels by rail. Separating fully infrastructure managers from rail operators together with wholly independent regulation is the key to creating such a market.
"The recasting of the railway package presents an opportunity for the EU to encourage a renaissance in rail freight. We hope they will accept our recommendations and ensure open and fair competition for train operators across Europe to encourage more freight transporters back onto the railways."
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