ERFA fully supports the EU modal shift objectives and believes they can still be achieved if rail urgently tackles unfair distortions between the competing modes of transport and removes rail’s unnecessary complexities that disadvantage rail’s attractiveness to end customers. Today it is still much easier, faster and cheaper to run a truck than a freight train.
Top 5 ERFA priorities to address the level playing field:
The different conditions for road and rail pricing distort competition between the two competing modes and favour the more polluting option. Until the price signals are corrected rail stands little chance of being able to effectively compete with the cheaper road option. The revision of the EU’s Road charging rules is an opportunity to promote the user pays and polluter pays principles for road transport. However an additional step is needed: Member States should support their rail sector in being competitive by decreasing rail track access charges to the comparable level of tolls paid by road transport.
Single operational language
Railway undertakings are in competition with road hauliers for customers whose drivers do not face the same stringent language requirements as in rail. If rail is to maintain or even increase traffic levels the language requirements of drivers must be simplified to a level that guarantees the safety of the rail system, while ensuring that the costs involved do not undermine the very existence of rail’s business model. The adoption of one single operational language for rail, English, must quickly go ahead. An urgent solution must also be found to simplify language requirements in the short-term for cross-border operations. Here the language requirement should be reversed to the traffic controllers.
Facilitating Combined Transport operations
Current EU rules to support intermodal transport operations and a shift away from pure road transport are sporadically applied across European countries, undermining combined transport’s potential to make further gains on the pure road competition. To increase the attractiveness of this transportation service it is essential to extend support measures to national intermodal operations and to accelerate investment into transhipment terminals.
Today’s unsatisfactory information availability on structure gauge restricts the optimal use of rail infrastructure as it does not always reflect the most accurate recording of the structure gauge or necessarily evaluate the compatibility using measurements of the structure gauge and the dynamic performance of the loaded vehicles. Current measurements also often involve significant safety margins. Railway undertakings should have a right of access to measured data or alternatively to measure the structure gauge and to validate the calculations in collaboration with the infrastructure manager.
Rail Master Plan
It is essential that national governments support their rail freight sector with a concrete plan for investment in infrastructure, reductions in track access charges that allow for rail freight to be competitive with the lower costs for road transport and in developing international rail freight operations running on their networks. The German master Plan, adopted in 2017, is a best practice example that should be built on and replicated elsewhere in Europe.