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The 4th railway package is welcome, but more effort needed

The European Commission has today released a long-awaited package of legislative proposals, with the objective of enhancing the quality and efficiency of rail services by removing the remaining obstacles that hamper the performance of Europe’s railway sector so that competitiveness and growth are increased. 

The European Commission has today released a long-awaited package of legislative proposals, with the objective of enhancing the quality and efficiency of rail services by removing the remaining obstacles that hamper the performance of Europe’s railway sector so that competitiveness and growth are increased.

European Conservatives and Reformists group coordinator in the transport committee Roberts Zile MEP welcomes the 4th Railway Package as another step forward towards a better functioning and liberalised European railway market. However, several important points concerning parts of the EU rail market with different track gauges still have not been properly addressed.
“The forthcoming opening of domestic rail passenger markets, as well as initiatives aimed at removing existing technical, administrative, institutional and legal barriers will bring us one step forward towards a Single European Railway Area; however special market conditions and technical particularities of those parts of the European rail network with different gauge sizes, such as the Baltic States and Finland, have not been properly taken into account in the new proposals, both in regard to technical interoperability requirements and competition rules.

“The rail freight market is dominated by traffic to and from third countries – mainly Russia – and therefore the EU regulation should help EU companies to maintain a strong position in those rail markets, where they face specific competition, discriminatory rail tariffs and a lack of reciprocal market access with neighbouring third countries, ” Roberts Zīle notes, “It was a complicated issue already last year when Parliament worked with the Council on the recast of 1st Railway Package and I believe that now the Commission and our colleagues in the Parliament are better aware of these issues it will be possible to find appropriate legal solutions”.

“If the EU comes up with legislation, it should be in favour of EU rail undertakings. It should not put them into a disadvantageous position against the dominance of third country companies. I can not imagine Vladimir Putin signing a law on the liberalisation of the Russian railway market without claiming reciprocal access for Russian railway undertakings to the EU market”, Roberts Zīle stresses.

The 4th Railway Package concludes the policy of rail market opening with the opening of domestic passenger markets. The Commission also proposes measures to strengthen the governance of infrastructure managers and to improve rules for interoperability and safety, including allowing cross acceptance and a single authorisation process of placing vehicles into service all around the rail network.

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