06/03/2013 The Italian Ministry of Environment, rail company Trenitalia and road transport company Autamarocchi have signed a memorandum of understanding on prommoting the partial shift of freight transport from road to rails. The agreement is related to Italy s strategic objectives of increasing the share of railway freight transport from 6% to 24% and of reducing the environmental impact caused by road transport. As part of the deal, Trenitalia and Autamarocchi will promote combined services and will submit to the government joint proposals for action plans.
The European Commission has produced a 4th Railway Package designed, once and for all after 20 years of trying, to introduce the single market and liberalisation to Europe s railways to achieve growth, cost reductions, competition and better service quality. Having consulted widely, the draft Directive was welcomed by the College of Commissioners on 9 January 2013. Then along goes Dr Grube, Chairman of DBAG, to Angela Merkel in the German Chancellery, and demands that Merkel gets the draft withdrawn unless the clauses on restructuring of the railways is removed.
Merkel phones EC President Barroso, passing on the demand; he discusses it with Vice President Kallas, Commissioners for Transport, who has firmly supported the 4th RP all the way, and the discussions open again with other Commissioners, further delaying discussion on it in the Parliament and the EU Council. Now France enters the fray. French Commissioner Barnier suddenly changes his opinion and writes to President Barroso (18 January) threatening social unrest in France.
One should not underestimate social and political unrest that may stem from the perception that the EU is aiming at dismantling bodies of professionals which are cemented by a strong corporate culture and a long history without it being absolutely indispensable for a well-functioning competitive market . Whilst of course supporting the Commission but not now! Like you, firmly committed that the liberalisation of the market can only work effectively if strictly independence of IM is ensured He could have added but not in my political lifetime!
So now the package is delayed by another few weeks for further discussion . There will be more heavy lobbying by Germany and France, the two member states pressing hardest to preserve their monopolistic structures but who are themselves the subject of legal challenges for failure to implement the European laws they approved over ten years ago, fines for competition abuse or both. Other member states must stand up and state clearly we do not want DB to operate all our railways and dictate European rail policy!
We do want this package as a whole; splitting it in parts and seeking to delay the parts Germany and France do not like will not work, as the elements are all inter-related. After 20 years debating and, in the case of Germany and France, resisting any liberalisation, it is time for this essential liberalisation legislation to be published as one package it is the only way to enable the railways to grow in efficiency, traffic volumes and customer service, not to forget the strong environmental benefits! The issues: Germany does not like the requirement to separate the infrastructure managers from their operators.
The Commission, in its latest letter to Germany on infraction proceedings, states that profits from the infrastructure manager (IM) are syphoned off into the holding company and then used to subsidise DB train operators who can then compete better with other operators, who have paid access charges which no doubt contribute to the IM s so that these operators are thereby subsidising their competition. Many smaller member states do not support the German line because they fear that, unless this legislation is passed, DB will be in an unfair and subsidised position to purchase passenger and freight operators in other member states until they run most of the railways of Europe. As if to confirm their fears today, it is reported that SNCB Cargo, the freight subsidiary of Belgian Railways, will be sold to German Railways to help reduce their debt.
In Portugal, DB is reported to be buying CP Cargo, the freight subsidiary of the Portuguese railway undertaking. Yet still more national freight companies fall to DB, after Denmark s, Netherlands and the UK. France seeks to undo even the existing cosmetic separation which allows liberalisation in name but prevents it in practice.
It is not surprising that SNCF were fined 60 m earlier this month for abuse of dominant position and other anti-competitive actions. It is perhaps a coincidence that only a few weeks ago the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice published his opinion on the current structure in France that it does not even comply with the First Railway Package. As for Barnier s statement above, the competitive market has failed completely in France, with SNCF Freight losing 50% of its traffic whist preventing by fair means or foul any competition from providing a good competitive service.
Tony Berkeley is a regular speak on rail issues in the House of Lords, chairman of the Rail Freight Group and a Board Member of the European Rail Freight Association.
Read this article:
Tony Berkeley, president Rail Freight Group: Does Europe want …