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Siim Kallas

Vice-President and Commissioner for Transport

Speech to the European Parliament prior to 1st reading vote on the railway recast


Strasbourg, 14 November 2011

Opening remarks

Mr. President, Honourable Members,

I would like to thank the Rapporteur and her colleagues for all the good and very intensive work and welcome the progress made by this Parliament to reach a compromise on this complex piece of legislation.

The Commission will present its work programme for 2012 tomorrow. I have already confirmed on several occasions my intention to propose further substantial reform in the rail sector next year.

Let me be clear at the outset that I do not seek change for changes sake, but rather because we need to strengthen rail to ensure it offers attractive services, capable of playing a substantial role in the transport of the future. The vision we have for rail is set out in the White Paper on the Future of Transport adopted by the Commission earlier in the year, and its role is underpinned in the Commission's very recently adopted TEN-T proposals. But rail will only fulfil its potential if rail companies are innovative, cost efficient and forward looking. Although the Commission has been seeking this for the past two decades, change has been very slow. So next year's package will revitalise the process, with proposals to open domestic passengers markets and review related PSO rules, with further structural change to ensure fair competitive conditions for newcomers and a refinement of the rules on standards and certification of rolling stock to make the approvals process quicker and more cost effective.

Completion of work on the current proposal, the recast, is a precondition for the 2012 package. I am fully aware that discussions in both Council and Parliament proved to be difficult and subject to intense lobbying from various stakeholders. They demonstrated that rail remains a conservative sector. In some cases, some of the principles and rules already agreed ten years ago have been challenged in an attempt to undermine ongoing infringement procedures. Let's be clear: the status quo, or even worse backward steps, is not an option!

A large majority of the 133 amendments adopted by the TRAN committee are acceptable for the Commission, even though in some cases subject to redrafting.

However, let me draw your attention to the fact that some specific amendments voted in TRAN and others now tabled to the plenary would substantially weaken the Commission proposal. These amendments would be a step backward compared to the text agreed by Council and even compared to existing law, which is not acceptable for the Commission. Let me insist on some of these:

(1) The issue of separation between infrastructure managers and railway undertakings will be subject to new proposals at the end of 2012 and therefore all amendments in relation to articles 6 and 7 are premature. The new provisions on separation of accounts are contrary to the principle of financial transparency and (at least as drafted) extremely difficult for the regulators to control. The result would be that state money paid to support the infrastructure could instead "leak" to an incumbent train operator, giving it an unfair competitive advantage - and at the same time diminishing the funds available for investment by infrastructure managers.

(2) Debt write off by Member States can only relate to so-called "historical" debt incurred before market opening.

(3) The recast proposal does not modify the fundamental principles of infrastructure charging, it simply clarifies how these principles must be applied. New exemptions to infrastructure charging can't be justified by any objective criteria.

(4) National regulators must have the possibility to fulfil their oversight functions, including for cross-border traffic, and prevent problems.

(5) Experience shows that the competence of national regulators must be extended, not limited. However, some amendments would restrict their interventions to cases of discrimination and impede interventions to correct other undesirable distortions of the market.

(6) Amendments 126 and 127 are problematic: the first would undermine the direct cost charging principle; the second would put unnecessary administrative burden on infrastructure managers.

(7) Amendments restricting or removing powers for the Commission to adopt delegated or implementing acts, often relate to non essential elements. We need to make technical adjustments which practically should not be done in co-decision.

Mr. President, Honourable Members,

I also need to draw your attention to the 2001 inter-institutional agreement on recast. This agreement establishes a discipline to guarantee inter-institutional equilibrium and, the right of initiative of the Commission and to make use of recast as a key instrument for better law-making. A number of amendments do not respect this agreement.

Thank you for your attention.

Concluding remarks

Mr. President, Honourable Members,

To meet our ambitious goals towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system, we need to make rail more attractive and more efficient. This requires important reforms, and the political courage to override national interests and take decisions to establish a Single European Railway Area. Clear and efficient rules on infrastructure financing and charging, the strengthening of national regulators and a better access to rail-related services are at the heart of the present recast.

Given this ambitious agenda it is important to complete the recast by mid-next year.

You have today an opportunity to send a clear signal to the rail sector and to citizens: we have high ambitions for rail and to live up to these ambitions we expect the rail sector to change. On that basis, you can be confident that the Commission will deliver a second stage railway proposal before the end of next year and I trust that the Council is fully prepared to proceed

Thank you for your attention.

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