Commission Communication: "Towards an integrated European railway area".
Draft Directive on safety of the Community's railways and amending Council Directive 95/18/EC on the licensing of railway undertakings and Directive 2001/14/EC on the allocation of railway infrastructure capacity and the levying of charges for the use of railway infrastructure and safety certification.
Draft Directive amending Council Directive 96/48/EC and Directive 2001/16/EC on the interoperability of the trans-European rail system.
Draft Regulation establishing a European Rail Agency.
Recommendation for a Council Decision authorising the Commission to negotiate the conditions for Community accession to the Convention concerning International Carriage by Rail (COTIF).
Draft Directive amending Council Directive 91/440/EEC on the development of the Community's railways.
|Legal base:||Articles 71 and 156 EC; co-decision (except (e)); qualified majority voting
|Documents originated:||23 January 2002
|Forwarded to the Council:||25 January 2002
|Deposited in Parliament:||14 February 2002
|Department:||Transport, Local Government and the Regions
|Basis of consideration:||EM of 5 March 2002
|Previous Committee Report:||None; but see (22660) 11932/01, (22776) 12597/01: HC 152-xv (2001-02), paragraph 2 (30 January 2002)
|To be discussed in Council:||25/26 March 2002
|Committee's assessment:||Legally and politically important
|Committee's decision:||For debate in European Standing Committee A; further information requested
2.1 In December 2000, the Council and the European Parliament
adopted the "first railway package", which, amongst
other things, will open up more than 50,000 kilometre of the transEuropean
rail freight network to international goods services in March
2003, with the entire network following in 2008. In April 1999
the previous Committee cleared the document containing the package
of proposals, but considered
it relevant to the debate on the Commission's White Paper on a
framework for common transport infrastructure charging.
2.2 The recent White Paper, "European Transport
Policy for 2010: time to decide" indicated that the Commission
would propose further measures to revive the railways. A key aim
of the White Paper is to shift the modal split from road towards
a revitalised railway system. The White Paper proposes a programme
with three types of measures to revitalise the railways: a fair
charging system for all modes of transport to reflect the full
value of the cleanest modes; continuing development of the transEuropean
transport network, giving strong priority to rail; and the construction
of a legally and technically integrated European railway area.
On 30 January 2002 we recommended the White Paper for debate,
and this took place on 13 March 2002.
2.3 In its White Paper, the Commission announced its
intention to table new proposals to improve access to the railway
network for freight transport and to amend existing directives
on the interoperability of conventional rail systems and High-Speed
Rail systems, as well as a proposal to create a European Railway
Safety and Interoperability Agency. The Communication and associated
proposals and recommendation are collectively known as the "second
2.4 The first part of document (a) provides an overview
of the five Commission legislative proposals. The aims of these
proposals are: to develop a common approach to rail safety; to
bolster the fundamental principles of interoperability; to set
up an effective centre of technical expertise (the European Rail
Agency); to clarify the role of the Community in the Intergovernmental
Organisation for International Carriage by Rail (OTIF); and to
complete the internal market in rail freight services.
2.5 The second part of document (a) indicates the Commission's
intentions for future action both legislative and nonlegislative
on both passenger and freight services. Further Commission
action is expected over the period 2002-2005 in a range of areas,
such as: improving the quality of services by opening the rail
network to new operators, setting quality criteria and giving
users financial compensation in case of noncompliance with
contractual service obligations; removing barriers to entry to
the rail freight market: deploying the ERTMS
control and command system; giving the regulators stronger powers
and simplifying customs procedures; improving the environmental
performance of rail freight services; gradually setting up a dedicated
rail freight network; progressively opening the market in passenger
services by rail; and improving rail passengers' rights.
2.6 Document (b) relates to a common approach to rail
safety. According to the Commission, the
"directive aims at guaranteeing rail safety by publishing
rules which everyone can understand. It lays down a clear procedure
for granting the safety certificates which every railway company
must obtain before it can run trains on the European network.
The objective is gradually to integrate the national safety systems."
2.7 The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the
Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (Mr
David Jamieson) summarises the document in his Explanatory Memorandum
of 5 March 2002:
"The proposed Directive on railway safety seeks as a priority
to modernise and harmonise the safety regulatory structure and
safety methods in the Member States, and to ensure that responsibilities
are clearly defined. It requires that there should be safety authorities
in each Member State, independent of railway undertakings and
infrastructure managers, with responsibility for regulation and
supervision of safety. It also provides for coordination
of these public authorities at European level. It outlines a proposed
common minimum set of tasks for these authorities in relation
- bringing into service of railway projects;
- issue, amendment etc of safety certificates;
- adoption of national safety rules;
"The proposed Directive also seeks to remove barriers to
further market opening by providing for the development of a harmonised
safety certificate, valid throughout the Community for equivalent
rail transport operations, Common Safety Targets (CSTs) for the
railway system, and Common Safety Methods (CSMs) to assess if
targets are being met.
"The proposed Directive would also introduce greater transparency
in decisionmaking. It would establish Common Safety Indicators
(CSls) to monitor the development of railway safety in the Member
States and at Community level. Railway undertakings and infrastructure
managers would be obliged to submit annual reports on the development
of safety to their national safety authority, which would in turn
publish a report each year and make it available to the European
Rail Agency also to be established under the Second Package.
"The proposed Directive would also address the investigation
of accidents and incidents. It would require Member States to
establish investigation bodies independent both of the railway
undertakings and infrastructure managers, and of the national
2.8 Document (c) concerns technical interoperability
to provide improved cross-border rail services. According to the
"experts have come up with solutions providing the technical
interoperability needed in order to operate transfrontier services
and cut rolling stock costs on the high-speed network. The Commission
proposes drawing on this experience and changing working methods
so that faster progress can be made on interoperability on the
conventional network. Geographically, interoperability must extend
to the entire open network."
2.9 The document specifically proposes amendments to
two interoperability Directives: Council Directive 96/48/EC and
Directive 2001/16/EC. Council Directive 96/48/EC covers the interoperability
of the transEuropean highspeed rail system and the
proposed amendments will bring it into line with Council Directive
2001/16/EC on the interoperability of the transEuropean
conventional rail network. Document (c) also extends the geographical
scope of Directive 2001/16/EC to ensure consistency between the
availability of access rights to international freight services
under Directive 2001/12/EC and the ability, through interoperability,
to take full advantage of those rights.
2.10 Document (d) provides for the establishment of a
European Rail Agency (ERA) in order to provide objective technical
expertise at a European level. According to the Commission:
"This Agency, with around 100 staff, will coordinate the
groups of technical experts seeking common solutions on safety
and interoperability. It will submit proposals for decisions on
these subjects to the Commission, which will adopt them once they
have been endorsed by the committees of representatives of the
Member States. The Agency will also play a liaison role between
the different competent national authorities. It could be in operation
2.11 The Minister says:
"The proposed agency would have no autonomous decisionmaking
powers, but would provide technical support to decisions made
by the Commission (through a committee of Member States representatives)
and act as a broader advisory body to the Commission. In its role
of supporting the Commission's decisionmaking, it would
in particular be responsible for coordinating development work
on Technical Standards for Interoperability (TSIs) and the CSTs
and CSMs introduced by the proposed Safety Directive, with support
from industry experts. The Agency would also have to consult interested
parties, including the representatives of railway customers. The
advisory role would primarily, be to provide a neutral technical
opinion in cases where there were safety or interoperability issues
relating to rights of access and players from several Member States
2.12 Document (e) is a recommendation for a decision
on Community accession to the Intergovernmental Organisation for
International Carriage by Rail (OTIF). According to the Commission:
"This organisation drafts regulations on, for example, the
carriage of dangerous goods by rail or technical standards applicable
to railway material. It is therefore essential for the Community
to accede to the OTIF Convention so that it can exercise its powers
on rail transport within OTIF."
2.13 According to the Minister this,
"reflects the Commission's view that certain areas covered
by the Convention as amended by the Vilnius Protocol of 1999 are
now the exclusive competence of the Community. As a result, the
Commission believes that Member States can no longer ratify the
Vilnius Protocol on their own outside the framework of the Community
institutions. It recommends that the Community accede to the COTIF
Convention in order to exercise its exclusive powers in certain
aspects of the railway sector covered by the Convention, and to
coordinate the Member States positions more closely in the
areas for which they share responsibility."
2.14 Document (f) proposes further amendment to Directive
91/440/EC to complete the liberalisation of rail freight services.
After the first railway package opened up the market just for
international freight services, the Commission now proposes,
"opening up the national freight markets as well. To this
end, the Commission proposes opening up the entire network sooner,
by 2006, allowing for the time which it will take to adopt and
implement its proposal."
2.15 The Minister says:
"This would amend the existing Council Directive 91/440/EEC
(as amended by Council Directive 2001/12/EC) to open domestic
rail freight markets, including the possibility of cabotage, to
stimulate competition and innovation; and would delete the provisions
which allow Member States to limit access for international rail
freight services to the transEuropean rail freight network
(the TERFN) for a transitional period until 2008."
The Government's view
2.16 The Minister set out the Government's position on
the five proposals. He says:
"The Government shares the Commission's objective of enhancing
the role of railways in our transport system through greater efficiency
and higher quality service. It therefore broadly supports the
Communication and its accompanying draft legislative proposals.
"As far as the draft safety directive is concerned, the Commission's
proposals are broadly compatible with Lord Cullen's recent recommendations
on rail safety management in Great Britain, in particular his
proposal for the setting up of an independent railway accident
investigation body and the establishment of an independent Rail
Industry Safety Body. The Government considers that the proposal
for the development of Common Safety Targets needs careful examination
as it potentially has implications for costs, or may undermine
existing safety levels, if current performance differs from the
targets. The costs and benefits of this proposal need much more
detailed exposition than is provided in the Commission document.
The Government will also seek to ensure that the proposal that
national safety authorities should adopt new national safety rules
does not undermine the principle that responsibility for safe
management of the railway rests with the industry not the safety
"The draft Directive also applies to the Channel Tunnel infrastructure,
which is subject to joint AngloFrench regulation in accordance
with the provisions of the Treaty of Canterbury of 1986. We shall
be examining jointly with the French Government the potential
implications for the existing system of binational safety regulation,
which is an essential feature of the Channel Tunnel project.
"We support the objectives of the Commission's strategy on
railways interoperability, which aims to reduce costs and facilitate
market opening. We shall, however, want to seek further information
on, and consider carefully, the balance between costs and benefits
from the proposal to extend interoperability requirements to the
whole European rail network.
"The proposal for a European Rail Agency (ERA) is for a technical
advisory body on interoperability and safety matters, staffed
by industry experts; with formal decisions made by the Commission
on the advice of the Member States. The Government supports in
principle the creation of a central source of industry technical
expertise. A considerable amount of worthwhile work remains to
be done to develop common standards, indicators etc. The Government
also supports the proposal that the ERA will act solely in an
advisory capacity to the Commission and will not have autonomous
executive powers. There are, however, some detailed issues that
need to be explored about its role (particularly in investigating
the activities of other bodies) and its governance (in particular
the composition of the administrative board).
"The Government supports in principle the proposal that the
European Community should accede to the COTIF convention. We accept
that competence in certain matters covered by the new Vilnius
Protocol is now within the exclusive competence of the Community.
However, the detailed proposals in the draft mandate for the Community's
rights to declare competence need further examination to ensure
that the proposed extension of Community competence is appropriate.
On timing, it appears that the Community cannot become a signatory
until after the 1999 Vilnius Protocol is in force. There are also
some more detailed issues to pursue to ensure that the individual
and collective influence of EU Member States on OTIF's management
and work programme is not undermined.
"The proposals for acceleration and completion of liberalisation
of rail freight are welcome. These proposals could provide additional
market opportunities for UK operators elsewhere in the EU. Even
without new market entry, these proposals would provide welcome
additional pressure for a more commercial approach by incumbent
freight operators on the continent which would benefit UK operators
presently engaged in cooperative arrangements with these companies.
The market in Great Britain is already largely open. One significant
exception is access to railways in ports and some freight terminals.
Rights of access to those railways in connection with international
rail freight traffic are required by Directive 2001/12/EC. This
proposal would extend those rights to include domestic traffic,
potentially enhancing market opportunities for rail freight operators.
"The Commission's Communication also flags up further measures
some legislative, some not that it intends to
develop over the next five years to take forward the completion
of the single market in rail transport. The Government's preliminary
view is that further action in all these areas is justified. However,
the specific policy implications will only become clear as detailed
proposals are tabled. The Government will continue to participate
fully in consultations on these further measures."
2.17 In its recent White Paper on European transport
the Commission gave notice that it would propose a series of measures
to provide for greater rail safety and interoperability and to
open further the rail freight market. This package of measures
is presented by the Commission as a way of breaking down the barriers
between the fifteen "compartmentalised and closed national
rail systems" in order to help create a true internal market
in rail freight services and bring about improved rail services
across Europe. According to the Commission, only 8% of goods are
carried by rail today, compared with 21% in 1970 and "the
average speed of international rail freight services has fallen
below 18 km/h, slower than an icebreaker clearing the way for
shipping in the Baltic Sea." The Commission contrasts this
with the USA, where rail carries 40% of freight traffic.
2.18 We note that a number of the measures the Commission
proposes to address this problem reflect British practice in many
important respects. This is hardly surprising, since the rail
system in the UK is more privatised and liberalised than those
in the rest of Europe. Of course, this does not necessarily mean
that the Commission's proposals are sound. For example, it is
not clear that separating track and train operations, as in the
UK, is the best way to organise a railway.
2.19 The proposal to improve rail safety is another
area of concern. The overall aim is, of course, to be welcomed.
However, as we noted when we considered the White Paper, the costs
of installing the European Train Control System favoured by the
Commission may be disproportionately high relative to the number
of lives it is expected to save, especially compared with what
could be achieved by investing the same resources in reducing
road accidents, particularly in towns.
2.20 The Commission indicates that further action
may be proposed in a number of areas, including improving the
quality of services by opening the rail network to new operators,
setting quality criteria and giving users financial compensation
in case of noncompliance with contractual service obligations,
removing barriers to entry to the rail freight market, and improving
rail passengers' rights. We note the Commission's intentions and
will consider the specific proposals in due course.
2.21 The recent debate on the White Paper on European
Transport was a wide-ranging one and covered railways to only
a limited extent. The six documents considered here are a comprehensive
and detailed set of proposals for the railways, and we are therefore
recommending them for debate in European Standing Committee A.
Such a debate will provide an opportunity for Members to comment
on the specific proposals for revitalising the railways and also
on the various measures that the Commission has indicated it is
likely to put forward in the future.
The package included: amendments to Directive 91/440/EEC to
provide further separation in accounting between rail infrastructure
and operations; amendments to Directive 95/18/EC on railway licensing
to extend the current EU regime for licensing international operators
to all rail services across the EU, both domestic and international;
a proposed Directive covering infrastructure charges and the allocation
of train paths; and a related Commission Working Paper. Back
debate took place on 10 March 1999 in European Standing Committee
Rail Traffic Management System harmonising railway signalling
and telecommunications systems (see IP 01/614 of 26 April 2001).
This system is the end-product of an integrated development and
demonstration programme partly funded by the European Union, first
as part of a research programme and then in the context of development
of the trans-European networks. Back
the railways: Commission makes proposals to speed up establishment
of an integrated railway area
IP/02/118, Date : 23/01/2002