The European Commission has adopted a fourth railway package aimed at improving infrastructure across the continent.
The proposal includes measures to open up the constricted railroad market, promote better quality and efficiency among operators, and link the continent together through rail.
European Parliament and the separate governments of each member state must approve the proposal before it becomes law. Many of the proposed rule changes, such as opening up the market to new players, are to be rolled out by 2019.
The proposal calls for creating new Europe-wide standards for trains and a single safety certificate for operators to eliminate costly duplication; creating a structure that separates running the trains and managing the tracks, which will provide better access to the tracks; and finally, making the European rail market truly open. The proposal also includes more protections for rail workers.
In a statement, the European Commission’s Siim Kallas said Europe is at a crossroads and can either go down the track of prosperity or the anti-railroad track.
“We have the opportunity to create a truly European railway network of tracks and routes which actually works… After decades of stagnation in many countries, rail will be able to grow again to the benefit of citizens, businesses and the environment,” he said. “Or we can take the other track. We can slide down the slippery slope to a Europe where railways are a luxury toy for a few rich countries and are unaffordable for most in the face of scare public money.“
In his bleak scenario, rail would disappear from large parts of the continent. This lack of infrastructure would bar growth and economic prosperity and clog the highways.
“The trends in rail are already very worrying,” he added.
The European Shippers Council has been waiting for this new package of proposals, stating that “European businesses and consumers continue to pay unnecessarily high prices stemming from monopolistic, inefficient, and nationally fragmented rail services.” - Jon Ross