EU Parliament adopts rail liberalization measures
The European Parliament’s transport committee on Wednesday (Oct. 1) adopted measures to open up the European rail industry for freight transport to competition by Jan. 1, 2006.
The measures, known as the “second railway package,” are intended to revitalize railways in the European Union by allowing access to rail networks in all EU countries.
“Members of the European Parliament believe that swift opening up of the rail network is the only way to counteract the constant increase in heavy goods vehicles and expanding car and air traffic,” the Parliament said in a statement.
The European Shippers’ Council, which supports the liberalization proposals, said that the introduction of competition in rail is “an essential step in completing the internal transport market and putting railway transport on an equal footing with other transport modes.”
“Competition will trigger a much needed increase in service quality, without which rail transport’s market share would continue to fall,” it added.
The measures would also allow shippers and freight forwarders to apply for slot capacity, thereby reinforcing their negotiating position with the railway companies, according to the shippers’ body.
The measures are subject to a vote by the European Parliament and to a review by the EU council of ministers, which represents national governments. The liberalization measures are expected to be opposed by the council of ministers, as most railway companies in Europe continue to be state-owned and protected from competition.
“A clash with the council seems certain,” the European Parliament said. Georg Jarzembowski, an influential member of the European Parliament, proposed that a conciliation procedure between the council and the Parliament “be started as soon as possible to enable the two institutions to reach agreement before the end of the parliamentary term in May 2004.”
The European Shippers’ Council urged the European Parliament to adopt the report of the transport committee and to come to a final agreement with the council of ministers in the coming weeks.