European Rail Market and the Role of the Channel Tunnel

10 May 2011

The House of Lords EU Sub-Committee on the Internal Market, Energy and Transport has invited contributions to its current inquiry into the development of international rail passenger services in the EU, focusing on the Channel Tunnel as a case study.

The inquiry was launched in the context of the European Commission’s 2011 White Paper Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area, which has looked into how people can be encouraged to switch from using planes and road vehicles to letting trains all across Europe take the strain.  As well as developing a competitive and efficient rail system across Europe, it is hoped that greater use of rail will reduce carbon emissions.

The Channel Tunnel is currently the only way in which rail passengers from the UK can travel directly into mainland Europe and has a sole operator in the form of Eurostar.  However, Deutsche Bahn plan to use the Channel Tunnel to run services to Amsterdam and Frankfurt from 2013.  

The Committee has sought to answer questions about the ongoing feasibility of the current regulatory framework, and the European Commission’s proposals, consider the oversight of safety of Channel Tunnel services and look at the future development of high speed rail lines and the potential role of EU infrastructure funding.

It is examining a range of questions including the following:

  • How can more competition in international rail passenger services in the EU be achieved, and what barriers still exist?
  • How has the liberalisation of the international passenger rail market been developing since new rules came into force in January 2010?
  • What measures are most necessary to ensure passengers switch from road and air to rail?
  • Are passengers satisfied with international rail travel in the EU?  Do passengers’ rights need to be strengthened?

Committee Chairman, Baroness O’Cathain, said:

“Overcoming the barriers to achieving a reliable, economical and more environmentally friendly rail network that links all corners of Europe is a noble aim and would be a great achievement.  However, we need to ensure that such an aim is both feasible and will be of benefit to people everywhere. 

“We want to be certain that the European Commission’s vision continues to be the right one and to investigate the issues surrounding how we might continue to make this vision a reality.  We would encourage anyone who has an interest – expert or otherwise – to contribute to this debate.

“We hope to contribute to a very important debate about the future of transport in Europe.  It is vital that we have a transport system that benefits consumers and help reduce emissions.”

  • Witnesses gave oral evidence to EU Sub-Committee B in the House of Lords:

Professor Roger Vickerman, University of Kent - 27 June 2011

Nicolas Petrovic, Chief Executive, Eurostar - 4 July 2011

Deutsche Bahn - 7 July 2011

HS1, followed by the Office of Rail Regulation, 11 July 2011

Alstom, followed by The Man in Seat 61, 14 July 2011

Theresa Villiers, Minister of State, Department for Transport, 18 July 2011

Lord Berkeley, 12 September 2011

Eurotunnel, 10 October 2011

The evidence sessions were webcast (www.parliamentlive.tv), and transcripts of oral evidence, together with written evidence received to date, can be viewed from the link below:

Oral and written evidence (PDF PDF 1.16 MB)

Image: iStockphoto

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