MEPs welcomed the Commission's "Railway package" proposals tabled on Wednesday. These are designed to complete the Single European Railway market, open up domestic passenger traffic to more competition and ensure full interoperability on a truly European network overseen by independent regulators. Here are some preliminary reactions.
"We want the operators to be able to run trains across the continent without technical or administrative barriers which undermine the internal market." To remove them, "we need an increased role for the European Railway Agency", said Transport and Tourism Committee chair Brian Simpson (S&D, UK).
Said El Khadraoui (S&D, BE) expects the debate "to focus on the opening of the domestic passenger market and the public service obligations". Provisions must be added to prevent "cherry-picking by new entrants who are interested only in taking the most frequented and thus most profitable lines", he added,.
Mathieu Grosch (EPP, BE) said "Making the railway sector more efficient is key. The EPP Group is committed to establishing a well-functioning Single European Railway Area where cross-border competition can develop without being hampered by restrictive national rules." He expects controversy over some of the concrete proposals. "For us, ultimately, the goal is to create sustainable jobs in the railway sector and improve public service", he added.
Gesine Meissner (ALDE, DE) stressed that the "lack of separation of financial flows in holding structures" needs to be tackled with this new legislation. "Profits generated by the infrastructure which is subsidized by public money must be reinvested in infrastructure only." Philip de Backer (ALDE, BE) added: "The independence of the Infrastructure manager will be key for a well-functioning railway market".
Roberts Zile (ECR, LV) welcomed the overall package, but criticized the fact that "special market conditions and technical particularities of parts of the European rail network with different gauge sizes, such as the Baltic States and Finland, have not been properly taken into account, with regard to technical interoperability requirements and competition rules."
Michael Cramer (Greens/EFA, DE) believes that single certification rules for rolling stock will bring a "real breakthrough, saving time and money". The European Railway Agency should be given full competence and resources to do the job. "Rail operators who do not comply with separation requirements should be excluded from foreign domestic passenger markets", he said.
In the coming weeks, the political groups will designate Transport Committee rapporteurs before starting expert hearings and debates in the committee.