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MEPs send strong signal to national governments on rail freight law


23 Apr 2009



Voting today in its Strasbourg plenary session, the European Parliament adopted by a large majority proposed new rules aimed at creating a competitive freight network across the EU by granting increased priority to freight trains along certain trans‐European “corridors.” Making rail freight more attractive is a vital part of the strategy to meet the EU’s environmental targets and to reduce congestion on Europe’s crowded roads. The rail sector now calls upon EU governments to approve the proposal as adopted by the European Parliament.

The European Rail Infrastructure Managers (EIM) and the Association of the European Rail Industry (UNIFE) welcome the result of today’s vote in the European Parliament. The new rules, initially proposed by the Commission in December 2008, have the potential to overcome some of the
challenges facing international rail traffic in Europe. In addition to giving priority to freight, the regulation would strengthen coordination between infrastructure managers while access to intermodal terminals would be made more efficient.

Michael Clausecker, Director General of UNIFE, said: “The measures are another positive step towards creating a truly European railway area. In conjunction with existing legislation, the freight corridors will help to enhance the competitiveness of rail freight transport throughout the EU.”

EIM and UNIFE welcome the pragmatic approach adopted by the EP: certain freight trains will be granted effective priority, both in timetable definition and traffic management. In case of a disruption, infrastructure managers should be allowed to take decisions that focus on the reduction of delays to “facilitated freight” while trying to minimise overall delays. However, EIM and UNIFE regret that this might not apply during peak hours, due to an escape clause introduced with a majority of just one vote.

Under the text approved by MEPs, the corridors on which freight traffic would be prioritised should be created according to solid business cases developed by Infrastructure Managers and Member States, rather than be predefined at EU level. The bodies set up to manage corridors should receive adequate funding to ensure the function efficiently.

The strengthening of the role of Regulatory Bodies (national bodies overseeing the rail market in each
Member State) to ensure they have the power to effectively resolve disputes and monitor the consistency of performance schemes should increase competition and transparency. The inclusion of provisions allowing other players in the logistics chain, such as freight forwarders or port operators, known as “authorised applicants,” to apply for train paths along freight corridors is a further positive step in this direction.

Michael Robson, Secretary General of EIM, said: “Flexibility in the creation and management of the
corridors are necessary and will ultimately deliver in terms of improved rail freight performance.”

National Transport Ministers must still approve the legislation before it comes into force. Today’s vote
has sent them a strong signal that Europe’s citizens and businesses support effective market based measures to improve the quality of rail freight.


Note to editor:
Over the last 15 years, the European Community has launched a series of initiatives aimed at revitalising rail
freight transport and giving it a more European dimension. According to the Commission, the performance of rail
freight again improved significantly in last few years. In the first half of 2007, it increased by 7%, in particular as a result of the dynamism of international traffic. However rail's modal share of freight transport is scarcely
increasing. In December 2008, the Commission proposed a regulation on a European rail network for competitive
freight. The regulation would promote the creation of corridors on which coordination between infrastructure
managers would be strengthened, adequate priority would be given to freight and access to intermodal terminals
made more efficient.

The joint EIM/UNIFE position paper on the proposed regulation is available at:

For further information, please contact:

Patrick Keating
EIM Public Affairs Manager
phone +32 2 234 37 70
mobile +32 476 66 19 09

Max Obenaus
UNIFE Head of Communications
phone +32 2 642 23 28
mobile +32 485 753 665