Europe’s railways: On track to the future

| September 23, 2014 | 0 Comments

train_and_people1Siim Kallas, speaking at InnoTrans 2014 – Berlin, 23 September 2014

“This is my third time to speak at Innotrans – an event that has fast become known as the largest rail industry event in the world. Thank You very much for inviting me back to Berlin. In my first speech four years ago I outlined my concept of creating a Single European Railway Area. This concept is based on my belief in two things: First, Europe has always jumped ahead when it has taken down barriers. Think about the Single Market, free movement of goods, services, people and capital. Think about free travel, think about enlargement. Second, I believe in pan-European efficiency. I believe that creating a smoothly functioning cross-border transport infrastructure and supporting pan-European transport services can genuinely benefit people and business. What has happened to the idea of a Single European Railway Area during these four years between Innotrans 2010 and today?

“First – we have the biggest infrastructure investment project in the history of the European Union. The Trans-European Transport Network project, which was finally adopted at the end of 2013, took three years of heavy negotiations, sometimes like a battle, sometimes even crazy. Europe’s transport infrastructure policy has undergone a fundamental change in thinking and approach. There is a stronger focus on innovation and new technologies. We are now thinking less of individual projects, and more of a core network of strategic corridors.

“We have managed to secure dedicated infrastructure financing to make sure it becomes a reality. The Connecting Europe Facility has three times more money, 26 bn Euro, available for transport infrastructure projects during the MFF 2014-2020 compared to the period 2006-2013. With this new approach, we aim to join East and West and all corners of a vast geographical area. Railways are a key part of the network that we plan to build. In fact, we couldn’t think about a functioning Trans-European Transport Network without rail, particularly in the nine corridors that will form the backbone of the new TEN-T.

“The big challenge ahead is now the implementation of these infrastructure projects. This requires commitment, dedication, strong will from all stakeholders. We can’t build them without proper rail services in place. And efficiencies gained in rail will also have a positive effect on the rest of the transport network. Still, there is a long way to go. We don’t yet have a proper cross-continental European rail network, let alone a single European rail market – more than 20 years after the first EU rail initiative.

“When I was last at InnoTrans, two years ago almost to the day, I outlined my plans for further reform in the Fourth Railway Package. It is designed to address the main problem areas, so that rail can play its full part in the integrated European transport network of the future. Without repeating all the details, I’m sure you know that our proposals set out to remove the administrative, technical and regulatory obstacles that are holding back the rail sector in terms of market opening and interoperability. Since then, as you know, EU member states reached a political agreement on the technical pillar. This is a serious step forward. Exploratory discussions can begin with the European Parliament towards a second reading agreement.

“Negotiations are continuing on the other proposals. It would be naïve to expect them to be easy; I think a good degree of contradictory views can be expected in the debates on market opening and network governance, for example. The package goes hand in hand with our work to revitalise Europe’s railways by making more use of research and innovation. We are now in a position to move closer to those goals, with the new public-private partnership Shift2Rail that was recently endorsed by EU Member States. The development of the Single European Railway Area depends on the development of transport policy in the European Union.

“One question is: – where should the transport policy be placed? Is that a low profile challenge for Europe? Or should it be equal with other economic policy areas like energy, digital market, as an important part of single market? Considering how much our every-day life depends on the accessibility, the quality of connections and of freight and passenger transport services – increasingly cross-border – it is my view that European Union transport policy is relevant and important for all our citizens. This can be one proof that the European Union has added value for everybody. Another big dilemma is: – solutions based on the market or measures against the market? Market opening is an element in all pan-European initiatives. It is not a very radical element; it is an element among others.

“But quite often especially market opening proposals raise fierce resistance and also quite often it is these elements which are watered down in parliamentary proceedings and also in the Council. I have been often accused of being “too liberal” in my proposals. I consider these accusations completely unfounded. The current barriers to the functioning of market mechanisms are meant to protect isolated entities, obsolete industries, privileged companies, isolated segments of transport industry. They are detrimental to a functioning European transport economy as a whole.

“Market opening can bring clear benefits for the European economy, including the transport industry. Two concrete areas of benefits: Firstly, it brings more private money into transport investments. There are numerous examples for this. More investments bring more global competitiveness, bring more profits, bring innovation, and, importantly, bring more jobs. Secondly, it improves the quality of services; it offers better prices for customers, for passengers and for cargo handlers.

“The big challenge for the European transport policy is to find harmony between environmental expectations and the hopes of people and economic reality. The European Union is about dismantling barriers between European nations. There are still a lot of national, economic, nationalistic, industrial, emotional and historic, and bureaucratic barriers in pan-European transport. All of them still hamper our quality of life and our competitiveness.

“Since this will be my last appearance at this major gathering of the European rail industry, I would like to thank you for all your support over the years – and I would like to thank for the good and open debate in those cases where some of you felt you did not want to support my views. I very much applaud the efforts that the industry has made to raise its own efficiency and put passengers and freight users at the heart of its development strategy. I encourage you to persist in these efforts.”


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Category: A Frontpage, Business, EU, European Commission, Freight

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