Wednesday, 26 February 2014

EU Railway Package Will Cut Costs For Passengers

The European Parliament today adopted a variety of measures aimed at reducing costs to railway companies and train manufacturers that should in turn reduce the cost of passenger fares.

In 2012 alone, 9.9 million passengers travelled by Eurostar to and from mainland Europe. This package will make it easier for other operators to bid to run services on the line by harmonising technical and safety standards and reducing administrative barriers.

Currently train manufacturers have to apply for certificates to sell rolling stock in each EU member state, while train companies have to deal with around 11,000 different safety rules to run trains across the EU. The introduction of new EU- wide rules will reduce costs, increase competition and make it easier for trains to travel across borders, leading to a reduction in passenger fares.

However, protectionist MEPs blocked ambitious proposals to open up the domestic rail markets of other EU countries to greater competition, a move that would have benefitted UK firms.

East of England Lib Dem MEP Andrew Duff commented:
"These new rules will bring down the costs of operating railways, that can only be good news for passengers as it will lead to cheaper fares. 
"However, I am disappointed that MEPs did not support increasing competition in domestic markets which could have reduced operating costs by almost a third. 
"Opening up the single market in rail would lead to better and more affordable train travel across Europe."

Notes to Editors

Current technical standards and approval systems mean that there is no single market in either rolling stock or infrastructure items such as rails and sleepers. The result is that costs are far too high.

Interoperability across borders is also poor as standards set by national authorities differ; it makes the whole system inefficient for trains running across borders.

Similarly, safety rules differ between member states, with around 11,000 different rules applying across the EU.

The package aims to harmonise safety rules as well as technical standards across the EU in order to remove the technical barriers that prevent trains from running across the entire network. The European rail agency (ERA) must have overall responsibility for authorisations and safety rules, with national safety authorities implementing them.

The European Parliament will now enter into negotiations with EU national governments over the legislation before a final vote, which is not expected to take place until after the European elections in May.