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New pesticides legislation should not jeopardise rail safety


13 Jan 2009



Europe’s rail sector welcomes the more flexible approach towards the use of pesticides as approved by Members of the European Parliament in today’s plenary vote in Strasbourg. However, CER and EIM warn that national implementation of the new rules must ensure that safety on the railways is not compromised.

The Pesticides Package proposed by the European Commission aims to establish a framework for achieving a more sustainable use of pesticides and to reduce the risks and impacts on humans, animals and the environment. MEPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of a compromise text agreed by the three EU institutions. While the approach taken by MEPs is less restrictive than originally feared, the new legislation could restrict the ability of railways to use chemical solutions to maintain the safety of the rail network.

Pesticides are used to maintain rail tracks for safety reasons: with no vegetation control, the ballast bed would loose its shearing strength and elasticity, creating uncontrollable forces and seriously reducing the safety of the tracks. Track benches neighbouring the ballast bed must be kept free to be used as emergency routes and to allow track works. Additionally, vegetation alongside tracks needs to be controlled to ensure that drivers have clear view of all signals. Scientific evidence shows that there is currently no better method yet available to replace the responsible use of chemicals. The rail sector has already implemented internal measures and management systems to reduce to the minimum the use of pesticides and to ensure that they are used in only specific safety-related situations.

EIM Secretary General Michael Robson said, “Despite the fact the Parliament adopted a more flexible approach in today’s vote, the Pesticides Package still contains a number of areas of concern for Infrastructure Managers. The imposition of buffer zones and other restrictions on the use of plant protection products could pose problems for safely maintaining Europe’s railways.”

CER Executive Director Johannes Ludewig said, “While the railways are doing their utmost to minimise the use of pesticides, the use of plant protection products still remains necessary to ensure the safety and efficiency of the network. We look forward to working with stakeholders to find a solution that balances safety and environmental concerns.”

For further information, please contact:
Frank Schneider
CER Press and Communications Manager
phone +32 2 213 08 90
mobile +32 473 32 20 94