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White Paper: A strategy for revitalising the Community's railways

The White Paper meets the need to lay down a strategy to revitalise the Community's railways by creating a sound financial basis, ensuring freedom of access to all traffic and public services and promoting the integration of national systems and social aspects.

ACT

Commission White Paper of 30 July 1996: "A strategy for revitalising the Community's railways" [COM(96) 421 final - not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

The railway sector is in decline and its market share is falling. Rail is felt not to respond to market changes or customers' needs. However, rail has characteristics which could make it an increasingly attractive form of transport in Europe. Many possibilities already exist for improving and developing services, and new areas of opportunity may open up. To meet these challenges, the Community needs a new kind of railway.

Finances: For the railways to flourish, clear financial objectives and a proper division of responsibilities between the State and railway companies are essential. The railways must have a financial structure that allows effective, independent management. Railway finances should be organised as follows:

  • Member States should relieve railways of the burdens of the past;
  • the railways should be run on a commercial basis.

Introducing market forces into rail: Strengthening the market will give management and workers incentives to reduce costs, improve service quality and develop new products and markets.

  • The Commission has drawn up a number of proposals to achieve this:
  • it proposes extending access rights to railway infrastructure for all freight services and international passenger services;
  • as regards domestic passenger transport, the Commission will examine several options for improving the institutional framework for developing the railways of the future;
  • the Commission will propose modification of Community legislation to require the separation of infrastructure management and transport operations into distinct business units, with separate management and balance sheets;
  • it also proposes promoting the creation of a number of trans-European rail freeways for freight.

Public services: The aim is to offer citizens satisfactory mobility thanks to continuity and quality of transport services, and to contribute to sustainable development, social cohesion and regional balance in the European Union.

The Commission's proposals are as follows:

  • to improve the quality/price ratio in the transport sector;
  • to generalise the use of public service contracts agreed by the State and the transport operator;
  • to study the practical problems associated with introducing market forces.

Integration of national systems: Railways developed on national lines, which resulted in difficulties in operating across frontiers, inadequate planning of infrastructure and fragmentation of the supply industry and research. Integration is far from complete.

The Commission is proposing the following measures:

  • to examine the scope for improving interoperability on major international routes in cost-effective ways;
  • to study how to eliminate delays at frontiers for freight traffic;
  • to assess what improvements need to be made to infrastructure to develop freight transport;
  • to assess policy instruments to reduce railway noise;
  • to emphasise socio-economic study proposals to support the transition from several national railway systems to one European system.

Railway workers are concerned that restructuring may cause job losses, both in the railways and in the supply industries.

Several measures are being considered:

  • to plan large-scale training schemes to facilitate the redeployment of redundant workers;
  • to examine the possibilities the European Social Fund can offer in the future for helping the workforce to adapt to the restructuring of the railways.

RELATED ACTS

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: "Trans-European rail freight freeways - [COM(1997) 242 final - not published in the Official Journal].

In its communication the Commission advocates the introduction of rail corridors to operate on the following principles:

  • access to freeways must be fair, equal and non-discriminatory for all train operators licensed in the Community;
  • the granting of licences, allocation of infrastructure capacity and charging of infrastructure fees within the framework of these freeways should be in compliance with Directives 95/18/EC and 95/19/EC;
  • freeways should be open to cabotage;
  • freight terminals should be open for fair, equal and non-discriminatory access to all train, road haulage and waterway operators.

To improve Europe's rail freight options, the Commission proposes the creation of a one-stop-shop to market freeways. It underlines the need to improve the distribution of train paths, establish a tariff structure which reflects relevant costs, reduce delays at borders and introduce quality criteria. The Commission lists the actions to be taken with a view to setting up freeways.

In July 1998, the Commission presented three new proposals aimed solely at making existing legislation more effective. On 26 February 2001, the Council adopted the three Directives known as the "rail infrastructure package":

Directive 2001/12/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 February 2001 amending Council Directive 91/440/EEC on the development of the Community's railways [Official Journal L 75 of 15.03.2001]

Directive 2001/13/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 February 2001 amending Council Directive 95/18/CE on the licensing of railway undertakings [Official Journal L 75 of 15.03.2001]

Directive 2001/14/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 February 2001 on the allocation of railway infrastructure capacity and the levying of charges for the use of railway infrastructure and safety certification [Official Journal L 75 of 15.03.2001]

On 23 January 2002, the European Commission proposed a new set of measures (known as the "second railway package") aimed at revitalising the railways through the rapid construction of an integrated European railway area. The actions presented are based on the guidelines of the transport White Paper and are aimed at improved safety, interoperability and opening up of the rail freight market. The Commission had also proposed establishing a European Railway Agency responsible for providing technical support for the safety and interoperability work.

White Paper presented by the Commission on 12 September 2001: "European transport policy for 2010: time to decide" [COM(2001) 370 final - not published in the Official Journal].

Directive 2004/49/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on 29 April 2004 on safety on the Community's railways and amending Council Directive 95/18/CE on the licensing of railway undertakings and Directive 2001/14/CE on the allocation of railway infrastructure capacity and the levying of charges for the use of railway infrastructure and safety certification [Official Journal L 164 of 30.04.2004]

Directive 2004/50/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 amending Council Directive 96/48/EC on the interoperability of the trans-European high-speed rail system and Directive 2001/16/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the interoperability of the trans-European conventional rail system [Official Journal L 164 of 30.04.2004]

Directive 2004/51/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 amending Council Directive 91/440/EEC on the development of the Community's railways [Official Journal L 164 of 30.04.2004]

Regulation (EC) No 881/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 establishing a European Railway Agency [Official Journal L 164 of 30.04.2004]

Finally, on 3 March 2004 the Commission adopted its "third rail package" containing measures to revitalise the railways in Europe:

Communication from the Commission "Further integration of the European rail system:third railway package" [COM(2004) 140 final - not published in the Official Journal].

The European Commission puts forward new proposals to open up the international passenger transport market by 2010 and to regulate passenger rights and the certification of train crews. This third package should complete the European regulatory framework for the rail sector.

Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Council Directive 91/440/EEC on the development of the Community's railways [COM(2004) 139 final - not published in the Official Journal].

Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the certification of train crews operating locomotives and trains on the Community's rail network [COM(2004) 142 final - not published in the Official Journal].

Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on international rail passengers' rights and obligations [COM(2004) 143 final - not published in the Official Journal].

Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on compensation in cases of non-compliance with contractual quality requirements for rail freight services [COM(2004) 144 final - not published in the Official Journal].

Directive of the European Parliament and of the Councilof 29 April 2004 amending Council Directive 91/440/EEC on the development of the Community's railways [2004/51/EC - Official Journal L 164 of 30.04.2004].

Directive of the European Parliament and of the Councilof 29 April 2004 amending Council Directive 96/48/EC on the interoperability of the trans-European high-speed rail system and Directive 2001/16/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the interoperability of the trans-European conventional rail system [2004/50/EC - Official Journal L 164 of 30.04.2004].

Last updated: 22.01.2007
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