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Brussels, 22 April 2004

Towards the Rail Transport European integration

The European Parliament supported today during its plenary session the result of the conciliation of 16 march 2004 on the second railway package. European Commission Vice-President Loyola De Palacio declared: "This is the end of the physical and technical barriers in the European Freight Railway Transport: this new context will change radically the picture for the rail transport and will really boost it. It will also contribute to the fight against road congestion. This is a revolution which represents a genuine European rail Transport integration."

The texts of the "Second railway package" encompass:

    A proposal to amend Directive 91/440 in order to extend infrastructure access rights to freight services within a Member State and open up the market more quickly. The international rail freight market will have to be completed by 2006. The agreed date for the complete opening of the rail freight markets, including cabotage, is 1st January 2007.

    A proposal for a directive on railway safety concerning the definition of the essential features of safety systems for infrastructure managers and railway undertakings. The aim is to develop a common approach to safety and establish a common system for the issue, content and validity of safety certificates. Finally, as in other sectors, the principle of independent technical investigation in the event of accidents is to be introduced.

    A proposal for a regulation establishing a European Railway Agency to provide technical support for the interoperability and safety work. Its remit will be, firstly, to develop common safety standards and devise and manage a system for monitoring safety performance and, secondly, to manage in the long-term the system for establishing, registering and monitoring the technical specifications for interoperability. This agency, with a staff of around 100, will have a pivotal role in moving forward the work on approximating the technical railway systems. It will be independent, but work closely with experts in the field. The agency will not have decision-making powers as such, but will make proposals to the Commission. These proposals would be adopted by the Commission through committee procedure, as is already the case in the context of interoperability.

    Amendment of the interoperability directives 96/48/EC and 2001/16/EC. In addition to the adaptations to interoperability directives made necessary by the above proposals, this amendment is essentially designed to ensure consistency of scope between the network on which there will be open access and that subject to the interoperability rules, with a progressive extension of the field of application to the whole European network.

Council and Parliament also agreed to start quickly the examination of the "Third Railway Package" proposed by the Commission on 3 March 2004 (see IP/04/291) and containing:

    a proposal for a Directive on the certification of locomotive and train drivers engaged in the carriage of passengers and goods in the Community;

    a proposal for a Regulation on international rail passengers' rights;

    a proposal for a Directive on opening up the market for international rail passenger transport services by 1st January 2010;

    a proposal for a Regulation on the quality of rail freight services.

The Stockholm and Göteborg European Councils identified further reform of Europe's railways, with the presentation of a second package of measures by the end of 2001, as a priority objective. This was taken a step further in the White Paper «European transport policy for 2010: time to decide» adopted by the Commission on 12 September 2001(1), in which revitalising the railways is one of the key components of the strategy proposed by the Commission to shift the balance between modes.

The Second Railway Package will help to accelerate the integration of the market by removing important obstacles to cross-border services. It will guarantee a high level of safety for railway operation and will contribute to reducing costs and facilitating operations through a greater harmonisation of technical standards in the railway sector.

It should be stressed that rail's share of the freight market has continued to decline and is now under 8%. In half of the EU countries the volume of goods transported by rail diminished, making a total decline of one per cent between 2002 and 2003. Equally, the opening of the railway freight market is too slow and new entrants share only 3 to 4% of the market.

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