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Brussels, 13 March 2014
Transport Council – 14 March 2014
The EU Council of Transport Ministers will meet in Brussels on Friday 14 March under the Greek Presidency of the EU. Vice-President Siim Kallas, responsible for transport and mobility, will represent the European Commission. Ministers will discuss: the Fourth Railway Package, in particular the strengthening of the European Railway Agency (ERA); the proposal for the establishment of the Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking for the coordination of research and innovation in the rail sector; and a competitive and resource-efficient urban mobility, i.e. the Urban Mobility Package.
Fourth railway package: European Railway Agency (ERA)
On 30 January 2013, the Commission proposed the 4th railways package: a series of legislative measures to deliver better quality and more choice in rail services in Europe. Improvements in service quality and efficiency are needed to make rail a more attractive choice for passengers and to encourage modal shift. Increased competition should enhance the attractiveness of rail and make the sector more responsive to customers' needs, allowing rail operators to compete with other modes.
One of the necessary element to reach the goals of the 4th railway package is the strenghtening the role of the European Railway Agency (ERA). ERA would become a "one stop shop" issuing EU wide vehicle authorisations for placing on the market as well as EU wide safety certificates for operators.
The Commission has therefore proposed a new Regulation establishing ERA.
The aim of the newly proposed measures is to allow a 20% reduction in the time to market for new railway undertakings and a 20% reduction in the cost and duration of the authorisation of rolling stock. Overall, this should lead to a saving for companies of 500 million Euro in 5 years.
The Commission welcomes the progress made under the Greek Presidency on this issue and expects Transport Ministers to reach a General Approach on this part of the Fourth Railway Package on 14 March. The Commission has however some reservations related to governance aspects of the agency.
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Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking
The Commission tabled a proposal to establish the Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking for coordinating research and innovation in the rail sector on 16 December 2013. The new public-private partnership would invest just under €1 billion in research and innovation to get more passengers and freight onto Europe's railways. Rail is amongst the most efficient and climate-friendly forms of transport, but currently it only carries about only 10% of European cargo and 6% of passengers each year.
The proposal gives form to the rail industry's request to set up a joint technology platform in the rail sector to accelerate the integration of new and advanced technologies into innovative rail product solutions. The new undertaking will also support the Union's ambitious transport policy goals by providing a technological pillar to the creation of a Single European Railway Area, thereby enhancing the competitiveness of the rail sector vis-à-vis other transport modes.
The Commission welcomes the progress made under the Greek Presidency and expects the Council to adopt a position on 14 March 2014. The EP is expected to vote on its opinion in April, allowing the Joint Undertaking to start working in 2015.
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Competitive and resource-efficient urban mobility
In December 2013, the Commission adopted the Urban Mobility Package with the Communication "Together towards competitive and resource-efficient urban mobility". The aim is to reinforce the exchange of best practice, provide targeted financial support, and invest in research and development. In addition, the package encourages the development of "sustainable urban mobility plans" to stimulate a shift towards cleaner and more sustainable transport in urban areas.
Cities are home to over 70% of the EU population and account for some 85% of the Union's GDP. Most journeys begin and end in cities. In many urban areas, however, increasing demand for urban mobility has created a situation that is not sustainable: severe congestion, poor air quality, noise emissions and high levels of CO2 emissions. Urban congestion jeopardises EU goals for a competitive and resource-efficient transport system. The challenges of urban mobility are huge.
The 'Urban Mobility Package' provides several suggestions as to how make city's journeys easier and greener; most notably it asks cities to establish Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans. The Commission will contribute to the political debate on this subject and hopes for Ministers to endorse the proposed objectives and tools. The Commission would like to see the Council issuing Conclusions on urban mobility later this year.
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