Rail Freight Transport Still Lagging Behind
ESC meets EU Corridor Coordinator
ESC, as one of the major stakeholders from the transport and logistics industry, discussed the future of rail freight transport at the presentation of the Court of Auditor’s new report on rail freight transport, entitled ‘Rail freight transport in the EU: still not on the right track’.
As rail transport is relatively sustainable in terms of emissions and use of fuel, the European Commission aims to shift freight from road to rail transport. Although the EU contributed approximately 28 billion euros to fund rail projects between 2007 and 2013, the new report of the Court of Auditors showed that rail freight transport is still lagging behind road transport.
The report reviewed the performance of rail freight transport in the EU since 2000 and visited five Member States between mid-2014 and mid-2015. Its findings demonstrated that the rail’s share of EU freight has actually declined slightly since 2011.
Problems of rail transport are related to differing national rules and prices caused by a lack of a single railway area. Additionally, the average speed of freight trains is relatively low, traffic management procedures are not adapted to the needs of rail freight and poor maintenance affects the performance of railways.
For European shippers it is important that rail freight places a greater focus on the needs of shippers which includes improvement of rail reliability, flexibility, customer focus, pricing and transit time. Based on the report, the Court of Auditors recommended that the Commission and Member States need to improve rail freight’s market liberalization, traffic management procedures, administrative and technical constraints, monitoring of performance and fair competition between different types of transport. Thereby it thus addressed the interests of shippers.
To achieve these improvements it was also stressed that the Commission and Member States have to make sure that funding allocations for projects and policy objectives are more coherent, as the report showed that allocated EU funds were not primarily used to target the needs of rail freight.
In line with the above mentioned need for better funding allocation for rail policy objectives, ESC Secretary General Nik Delmeire had a bilateral meeting with one of the EU Corridor Coordinators Karel Vinck. The latter is Coordinator for rail ERTMS and also provisional EU Coordinator of the Orient/East-Med Corridor. For ESC it was yet another opportunity to convey shippers’ interests and ambitions regarding the use of rail.