EUROPEAN UNION ENDORSES OPEN RAIL FREIGHT COMPETITION
Twelve nations in the European Union on Friday backed a set of proposals to open the Continent’s rail freight market to international competition.
A majority of the EU members prevailed over objections from France, Belgium and Luxembourg.
Under the proposed plan, any company would be allowed to operate international freight trains after 2006. After 2008, domestic routes would be open to competition.
That would mean, for example, that a Italian operator could move shipments by rail between cities in France, traffic that is presently handled by the French national railroad, SNCF.
Breaking up national monopolies in certain European countries is one rationale for the proposed rules, which would also promote the use of railroads.
The European Commission has released figures showing that only 9 percent of freight traffic in the European Union is carried by rail, half of what moved on trains 30 years ago. In the United States, railroads carry 40 percent of shipped goods.
The European Parliament must approve the proposals endorsed last week. After that, all of the EU nations will vote again on the final form of the plan.