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Procedure : 2010/0253(COD)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A7-0367/2011

Texts tabled :

A7-0367/2011

Debates :

PV 14/11/2011 - 16
CRE 14/11/2011 - 16

Votes :

PV 16/11/2011 - 6.8
CRE 16/11/2011 - 6.8
Explanations of votes
Explanations of votes
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P7_TA(2011)0503

Debates
Monday, 14 November 2011 - Strasbourg OJ edition

16. Single European railway area (debate)
Video of the speeches
PV
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  President. – The next item is the report by Debora Serracchiani, on behalf of the Committee on Transport and Tourism, on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a single European railway area (recast) [COM(2010)0475 - C7-0268/2010 - 2010/0253(COD)] (A7-0367/2011).

 
  
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  Debora Serracchiani, rapporteur.(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, before beginning with a brief description of my report, I would like to thank the shadow rapporteurs who worked with me on the revision of the railway recast. I would particularly like to thank Mr Kuhn, Mr Tremosa i Balcells, Mr Zīle, Mr Cramer and Ms Wils. I would also like to thank the Chair of the Committee on Transport and Tourism, Brian Simpson, the parliamentary group coordinators and all of my colleagues for the extensive debate we have had on a report that was particularly complex but also, I believe, important for the implementation of the railway system.

It is a recast of the first railway package, which has not been correctly applied since its entry into force, and, in fact, 13 infringement procedures against Member States relating to implementation of the first railway package are currently under way. The objective of the railway recast is to achieve a single European railway market. It is an ambitious objective because the rail system is the most outdated transport system, which has not managed to catch up with other modes of transport. For example, the average percentage for rail freight in European countries is stationary at around 6-7%, while only 11-12% of passengers travel by rail.

Therefore, it is clear that rules need to be harmonised, and that new systems and new elements need to be added and strengthened to ensure that railways can develop properly, particularly where they cross borders, which is the most problematic part for European integration.

The creation of a single European market is therefore necessary, just as it was for the air transport sector. The creation of a single market will mean that citizens can use trains that can run throughout Europe, with better fares and a service on a par with that of other modes of transport. Currently, few trains can travel outside national borders. Now the aim is that they can compete with each other throughout the whole of Europe, something which – as I have said – is not the case today.

The objectives which the first railway package attempted to deliver are therefore the aim of this recast and of all the measures for unification of the rail system that will follow. This means that, starting with the railway recast, some rules need to be revised.

One of the most important points that we have discussed at length, and which I believe is also the key product of the railway recast, is the provision of a national regulatory body, a network of national regulatory bodies with clear responsibilities, a strong national regulatory body with resources like the energy regulator, which could – as many hope – allow us to have a single European regulatory body in the future.

We have tried to provide clear rules for transparency and separation of the accounts of the infrastructure manager and the services manager, by prohibiting cross transfers between the network and the services manager as happens in the case of many holding companies, for example. We have tried to maintain the separation of accounts that has been in force since 1991, according to which public funds for infrastructures must be used solely to improve infrastructure and not to finance the business of transport companies, also because these subsidies prevent fair competition between all the service operators.

As rapporteur I would have liked the railway package to be more ambitious. I would also have liked there to be a total separation between infrastructure and service operators. However, we have been given a commitment by the Commission that this will be put in place by 31 December 2012.

Other important provisions concern ease of access to infrastructures, which is essential in order to guarantee that all new operators can use network services, and in addition to total separation, the Commission has made a commitment to present a proposal for national market liberalisation by 31 December 2012.

We have also included benefits for operators that introduce significant technological innovations to reduce environmental impact, and we have included the possibility of an improvement in the sector by allowing 7-year instead of 5-year strategic plans as previously. Finally, we wanted to guarantee compliance with laws governing employment rights and safety in the workplace, and to maintain the right to strike.

 
  
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  Siim Kallas, Vice-President of the Commission. – Mr President, I would like to thank the rapporteur and her colleagues for all their good and very intensive work and welcome the progress made by this Parliament to reach a compromise on this complex piece of legislation.

The Commission will present its work programme for 2012 tomorrow. I have already confirmed on several occasions my intention to propose further substantial reform in the rail sector next year. Let me be clear at the outset that I do not seek change for change’s sake, but rather because we need to strengthen rail to ensure it offers attractive services, capable of playing a substantial role in the transport of the future.

But rail will only fulfil its potential if rail companies are innovative, cost-efficient and forward-looking. Although the Commission has been seeking this for the past two decades, change has been very slow. So next year’s package will revitalise the process, with proposals to open domestic passenger markets and review related public service obligation rules, with further structural change to ensure fair competitive conditions for newcomers and a refinement of the rules on standards and certification of rolling stock to make the approvals process quicker and more cost effective.

Completion of work on the current proposal, the recast, is a precondition for the 2012 package. I am fully aware that discussions in both Council and Parliament proved to be difficult and subject to intense lobbying from various stakeholders. They demonstrated that rail remains a conservative sector. In some cases, some of the principles and rules already agreed ten years ago have been challenged in an attempt to undermine ongoing infringement procedures.

Let us be clear: the status quo – or even worse, backward steps – is not an option!

A large majority of the 133 amendments adopted by the Committee on Transport (TRAN) are acceptable to the Commission, even though in some cases subject to certain redrafting. However, let me draw your attention to the fact that some specific amendments voted in TRAN and others now tabled to the plenary would substantially weaken the Commission proposal. These amendments would be a step backward compared to the text agreed by Council and even compared to existing law, which is not acceptable for the Commission.

Let me insist on some of these:

First, the issue of separation between infrastructure managers and railway undertakings will be subject to new proposals at the end of 2012 and therefore, all amendments in relation to Articles 6 and 7 are premature. The new provisions on separation of accounts are contrary to the principle of financial transparency and (at least as drafted) extremely difficult for the regulators to control.

The result would be that state money paid to support the infrastructure could instead leak to an incumbent train operator, giving it an unfair competitive advantage – and, at the same time, diminishing the funds available for investment by infrastructure managers.

Secondly, debt write-off by Member States can only relate to so-called historical debt incurred before market opening.

Thirdly, the recast proposal does not modify the fundamental principles of infrastructure charging; it simply clarifies how these principles must be applied. New exemptions to infrastructure charging cannot be justified by any objective criteria.

Fourthly, national regulators must have the possibility to fulfil their oversight functions, including for cross-border traffic, and prevent problems.

Fifthly, experience shows that the competence of national regulators must be extended. However, some amendments would restrict their interventions to cases of discrimination and impede interventions to correct other undesirable distortions of the market.

Sixthly, Amendments 126 and 127 are problematic. The first would undermine the direct cost charging principle; the second would put an unnecessary administrative burden on infrastructure managers.

Seventhly, amendments restricting or removing powers for the Commission to adopt delegated or implementing acts often relate to non-essential elements. We need to make technical adjustments which, practically, should not be done in codecision.

I also need to draw your attention to the 2001 interinstitutional agreement on recasting. This agreement establishes a discipline to guarantee interinstitutional equilibrium, the right of initiative of the Commission and the right to make use of recasting as a key instrument for better law making.

Thank you for your attention.

 
  
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  Jörg Leichtfried (S&D).(DE) Mr President, I do not wish to draw this matter out longer than necessary. However, I was very surprised to hear the Vice-President say that he would not necessarily accept the result of tomorrow’s vote in Parliament. I have always understood that the Commission’s function is to propose legislation, which is then decided upon by Parliament and the Council. Has something changed, or how should I interpret the position?

 
  
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  President. – We will discuss this subject right now. Your remark goes to the heart of the matter. Our discussions are indeed meant to deal with such issues.

 
  
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  Werner Kuhn, on behalf of the PPE Group.(DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, firstly, I would like to thank the rapporteur, Ms Serracchiani. She has performed a truly Herculean task in injecting a new impetus into a stagnating process that has seen almost no progress over the last 10 years, at least as far as the first railway package is concerned.

It is vital that we should mobilise cross-border traffic and that competition should be permitted in the rail sector, which is also why we in Parliament are concentrating on the key points in relation to the proposal from the Commission.

This is the first key point I should like to make: we need a strong, independent regulator, a regulatory authority that ensures fair competitive conditions to ensure that all approved railway companies are given access to the network and can provide transport services there. The decisions made there cannot be put off for 12, 24 or even 60 months. They need to be made promptly, preferably within a month, determining who is to be approved and who is to be allowed to participate.

The second consideration is the financing of the necessary infrastructural measures. This is a decisive point and, as Mr Leichtfried has already said, we would call upon the Council to agree to provide the necessary level of funding to enable the infrastructure to be developed, whether this involves the laying of track or the installation of signalling systems, Electric Monorail Transport Systems (EMTS) and safety. Another very important point: we believe that the seven years mentioned by Ms Serracchiani are very important.

As regards the calculation of track access charges: we support fair conditions for all, a clear definition of the various components of the infrastructure; in other words, which costs are fixed and which are variable, as well as the transparency of the financial flow between infrastructure operators and railway companies. We regard this as a crucial point. However, when capital is invested, it is always necessary to ensure that companies can service reasonable interest repayments from the revenue generated from track access prices. We cannot proceed here solely along dogmatic and ideological lines.

We need electronic ticketing and interoperability going forward and this is precisely what we are asking for from the Commission. People should stop trying to hide behind technical barriers. Safety with EMTS, noise abatement – the aim is to get more freight and more passengers travelling by rail, enabling us to work in an ecologically rational way using little energy and enjoying excellent distribution.

 
  
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  Saïd El Khadraoui, on behalf of the S&D Group. (NL) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I, in turn, would like to start, of course, by thanking the rapporteur for an excellent piece of work. This dossier, that you and the shadow rapporteurs have brought to a successful conclusion, is technical, complex and controversial. Obviously, there is still more work to be done as the negotiations with the Council are yet to take place. Somebody has already mentioned that, next year, we will have a ruling from the Court of Justice with respect to a number of infringement procedures – which is not unimportant – we are expecting a Fourth Railway Package which will address several issues that we have so far been unable to settle within this framework, in particular, the liberalisation of domestic passenger transport and perhaps even a decision on the prohibition of integrated structures and, hence, a strict separation between infrastructure manager and operator.

To be honest, I think it is a good thing that we are putting off that package for a while. It is a very controversial package. We need to study its impact properly. I also think that we need to test it carefully against our objectives, namely, the creation of a European railway area where the quality of service for passengers will remain intact and where employees will be able to work under good conditions.

That said, this recast is, in itself, very important, because several things will be clarified. The recast limits the Member States’ room for manoeuvre, the opportunities open to them in terms of interpreting the application of the First Package. In practice, that will translate into greater harmonisation of the operation of the railway transport market in the Member States.

We are doing this by substantially strengthening the regulator and, in the long term, by working towards the establishment of a European regulator. There will also be more transparency as regards levies, money flows, and more guarantees for the financing of rail infrastructure by imposing long-term commitments on the Member States. What I also find positive, Ms Serracchiani, is that the right to strike will be retained. However, that is something that we first have to regulate at the national level. In brief, a small step forward, but a very important step in the realisation of a European railway area for the sectors concerned.

 
  
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  Ramon Tremosa i Balcells, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, first of all, I also want to thank the rapporteur, Mrs Serracchiani, and also the shadows for the very good job they have done.

This is a very technical dossier. We have been working for a year in the Committee on Transport dealing with nearly 800 amendments. The Liberals have tried to maintain coherence in all the debates during this year. This has been difficult because the two big groups in this House are divided on some key points.

The unbundling issue, which was not proposed by the Commission but by the rapporteur, has held up the process for months and has monopolised the debates and the final vote of this recast.

We Liberals proposed to take the unbundling issue out from the recast and call the Commission to come up with a legislative proposal on this issue after having an impact assessment and after full stakeholder consultation.

We Liberals believe that the main problem of the European single railway area is a problem of openness much more than a problem of model organisation between integrated and separated models.

I am a Mediterranean liberal. I am a Catalan liberal. I come from a Mediterranean country in which there is no real openness and no real competition on freight transport.

Since the first debate, the Liberals have proposed the creation of a European regulatory body – not to create more bureaucracy or to intervene in countries where there is a national regulatory body that is efficient and strong in terms of budget and staff. The European regulator should intervene in countries in which the national regulator is not doing its job. We need a red telephone at European level to deal quickly with international competition problems in the railway sector.

Finally, the Liberals will vote against Article 6(4). The control by regulators over the revenues of infrastructure managers of railway undertakings is not so clear, so this clause could still be used for business and could create competition distortions. We are in favour of more transparency in this clause.

 
  
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  Michael Cramer, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group.(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I, too, would like to thank the rapporteur and the shadow rapporteurs for the complex discussions we have had. We, the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance, are in favour of the opening up of the networks on ecological grounds rather than ideological ones. We need to shift traffic from road to rail in order to halt climate change and save the planet.

We know from experience with freight transport that countries that have opened up their railway networks have had a positive experience in this regard, with the United Kingdom reporting a 60% increase, the Netherlands 40%, Poland 30% and Germany 25%. In the case of those countries who refused to listen and who waited until the last moment to change, this traffic has now moved to the roads and the jobs are gone – France, for example, has recorded a decline of 28%. That must not happen again. That is why we favour opening up the networks.

We have heard that the European Court of Justice will decide which model should be chosen, in other words, whether we should follow the Spanish model of strictly separating network and operation, while maintaining a closed network, or whether we should copy other countries like Belgium, the Netherlands or Germany, where a link still exists. This is for the European Court of Justice to decide and for the Commission to implement.

Naturally, I also have a question for the Commission. Why have you waited more than 10 years, standing idly by while existing European laws were continuously flouted? You should have taken action sooner. I do not mean you personally, Mr Vice-President. However, the Commission as a whole has watched quietly for far too long while agreements were violated and laws were broken.

What we want now is a strict regulatory authority. We know that this is crucial. We need a body that is strong, that makes decisions quickly, and that remains impartial. We know that a decision must be taken within two weeks in Germany and within two months in Italy if the questionnaire is completed correctly. Since this is rarely if ever the case, nothing is going to happen there. It will take at least two years to get an answer in France. For this reason, we need a strict regulatory authority that reaches decisions quickly, is independent and that guarantees openness.

We want a European railway network rather than a nationalistic operation. Such an arrangement is a thing of the past, but we need to look to the future.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  Francesco Enrico Speroni (EFD).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I wanted to ask the rapporteur who – quite rightly in my opinion – insists that transport should be by rail rather than by road, what she thinks of the people in Italy who oppose the fast rail link between France and Italy, sometimes violently, and are even opposed to an underground link.

 
  
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  Michael Cramer (Verts/ALE).(DE) Mr President, the big question is where we invest. We will not succeed in improving the network with major projects that will be up to 70%, 60% or 40% complete by, perhaps, 2050 or 2060. We need fast decisions where efficiency is quickly apparent and the changeover can happen.

We know that Italy is involved in three major projects in which cofinancing has still not been secured. We do not want to bury money in projects, whether between Lyon and Turin, or the Brenner Base Tunnel, or the bridge spanning the Straits of Messina. What we want is efficiency as quickly as possible in order to save the climate. We have no time to lose. For this reason, we do not oppose these major projects in themselves, but rather it is our wish that the money should be put to better use. This applies not just to the Lyon-Turin project, but also to Stuttgart 21. We have witnessed this scenario in Germany before: construction goes on for 20 years, then the money dries up and we have gained nothing. This must be avoided. We need to learn from the past.

 
  
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  Roberts Zīle, on behalf of the ECR Group. (LV) Mr President, Commissioner, I should also like to start by expressing gratitude to Ms Serracchiani for her great patience, as well as to my colleagues, the shadow rapporteurs, for their cooperation, firstly, concerning the complete separation of infrastructure managers and railway undertakings. I do, however, believe that all our hard work goes to show that we have to wait for decisions of the Court of Justice of the European Union, and we also have no reason to believe that Commissioner Kallas will not come up with a balanced and considered Commission proposal on the subject by the end of next year. I should also like to express my gratitude for the great understanding shown during the many rounds of negotiations on a specific market segment that exists on the European railways, the so-called Russian 1520 mm gauge. Thank you again for this understanding (which, as we are well aware, is relatively close to the standpoint of the Union on the matter) on many specific issues. First of all, it pertains to imposing a ceiling on infrastructure charges, capacity allocation schedules and modernisation requirements for track vehicles, i.e. rolling stock. Therefore, I am really grateful for this understanding and I truly hope that, despite the conflicting viewpoints we have heard today, we shall be able to vote this week on a balanced proposal, on which we could then find a compromise with the Council. Thank you.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: ANNI PODIMATA
Vice-President

 
  
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  Sabine Wils, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group.(DE) Madam President, the obvious point of the new version of the first railway package is to secure profits for private businesses in the rail sector. The integrated public railway companies are to be destroyed by allowing subcontracts to be awarded and marshalling yards and maintenance works to be privatised and operated by private businesses from outside the railway industry. Despite the fact that experience in the United Kingdom shows that this is the wrong approach, nonetheless, this is the direction that is to be taken throughout the EU.

This policy will have a negative impact not only on those working in the railway industry, but also on passenger safety. I strongly oppose the suggestion from the Right in Parliament, contrary to the majority opinion of the Committee on Transport and Tourism, that the right to strike should be removed by invoking the vital services principle.

The railway sector is an integrated network that cannot be divided up into radical free-market, profit-oriented parts. We must not allow this to happen because it must remain possible to control the railway sector in a social, economic and ecological context into the future.

It is for this reason that my group sides with the unions and clearly favours the retention of the integrated railway companies in public hands. These companies not only provide social stability for their employees, but also offer a guarantee of increased transport volumes.

 
  
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  John Bufton, on behalf of the EFD Group. – Madam President, we have in the past had problems with our rail networks since the difficult transition from nationalised rail services to privatisation. Serious problems have also arisen from the 1991 EU directive requiring Member States to separate the management of railway operation from the provision of transport services.

Due to kowtowing to Brussels, measures are implemented which are not often beneficial to the British public and are exercised with considerable difficulty. There is also an argument that for safety reasons, it would be more beneficial for railway maintenance and locomotive operators not to be commercially separate.

Particularly in light of the fact that we are not interconnected with mainland Europe (bar the Channel Tunnel), the directive has an unnecessary and disproportionate impact upon our railways. It is widely held that the first railway package was a failure leading to open conflict in committee meetings. It is then inconceivable to support a costly and disruptive proposal which does not serve to benefit the UK.

 
  
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  Mike Nattrass (NI). – Madam President, increasing the independence and powers of national bodies is good. The failings of the railway package are laughable, and the share of freight being moved by rail has actually fallen since the first railway package in 2001. Are the EU regulations enforced?

The Commission will not enforce the regulations on battery cages for hens, which may well force producers who have complied out of business. So what is this about enforcement? Will cash-strapped national governments pay their fines? Some pay fines then continue to break the same rule, because the annual revenue collected exceeds the amount of the annual EU fine.

The Commission has taken 13 Member States to the European Court of Justice for failing to correctly implement various parts of the railway package. Was anything enforced? Here, the EU sought control over national policy-making decisions on railways: for example, stopping the political will to run nationalised railways. These are matters of national sovereignty and the freedom of the voters – not the EU.

The report criticises Member States for lack of investment to meet this package, but we are in the middle of an economic crisis. The legislation does not require clarification or improvement. It clearly should be scrapped.

 
  
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  Antonio Cancian (PPE).(IT) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I thank Ms Serracchiani for the work carried out this year along with her colleagues.

I have to say that we have tried to improve the efficiency of the rail transport market. The text proposes the creation of a single European railway area. Expectations were high, but after a year of work, I believe they have been considerably reduced.

Analysis of the situation has shown that we are a long way from having a single, integrated market, and the liberalisation of national and regional passenger traffic markets in particular is still not recognised by this Parliament. We are talking about 60% of the railway market which is not actually free at the moment. Personally, I am amazed by the lukewarm approach to an issue that concerns one of the four fundamental freedoms of the European Union. Given that, in the current circumstances, we need to focus on growth, I wonder how it is possible not to remove the administrative obstacles preventing the development of competition and the European market.

The same fate has befallen treatment of the relationship between the infrastructure managers and the rail companies. In this connection, I tabled an amendment to Annex I requesting the inclusion of passenger stations under infrastructures in order to have fair and equal access for all those providing passenger services. This is important, otherwise we would start off with an incorrect division.

 
  
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  Ismail Ertug (S&D).(DE) Madam President, Ms Serracchiani, ladies and gentlemen, this proposal takes us one step closer to a simpler, more effective joint rail policy. The significantly strengthened regulatory body and financial plans spanning several years will help make rail travel more competitive and reliable.

I am also particularly pleased that the rapporteur has succeeded in including social aspects in the focus of the report. After all, an integrated rail market must offer employees the same high-standard working conditions throughout the European Union.

In this context, it is correct that the right to strike should remain inviolable. Opinion has been divided for some time in relation to the separation of the rail network and the operating companies and I would like expressly to thank the rapporteur for her tenacity and willingness to negotiate, because this has helped us find a well-balanced compromise. We now await the legislative proposal from the European Commission.

Finally, I would ask and encourage you all to give our rapporteur broad support with a mandate that will enable her to enter into discussions and negotiations with the Council. A solid path has been laid. With this in mind, I would like to thank the rapporteur and wish her well.

 
  
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  Gesine Meissner (ALDE).(DE) Madam President, Mr Kallas, I would also like to thank the rapporteur, Ms Serracchiani. This was a tough task for her, as this really is a difficult portfolio.

As has already been mentioned, the first railway package was established 10 years ago, when all Member States agreed on how the railway market in Europe could be opened up. The crazy thing is that a review carried out in 2009 indicated that only four states had actually met the provisions contained in the package. Two countries do not count as they do not have a rail network. The remainder have failed to stick to their own resolutions. This is why we need to take action once again.

It is evident that we need a comprehensive railway sector in Europe, both in the interests of the internal market and in the interests of our citizens. What we find is not just gaps in the rail lines and incompatible systems, but also legal and organisational hurdles. It is these hurdles that we have tried to eliminate here. The good news is that we now have a strong regulator at European and national level. This regulator must be independent and must also be able to take action quickly. A lot of people have said this. We have also noticed that although the separation of networks and operators may be the right solution, a lot of comparisons are required in order to establish the nature of this separation and to ensure that we have a consistent system throughout Europe. This is something that will need urgent attention next year.

There is one thing that we in the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe disagree with – Mr Tremosa has already pointed it out and we have also asked for a separate vote on this issue – and that is Article 6(4). Mr Kuhn has already indicated that he wants transparency in relation to the financial flow. We do not want to see public monies being invested in areas other than infrastructure. This is not assured by the current wording, however. This is why we really do need to vote against the last section, as otherwise we shall have no transparency. This is not in the interest of progress in the rail market.

 
  
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  Isabelle Durant (Verts/ALE).(FR) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, as my colleague, Mr Cramer, pointed out, the only meaningful type of competition is competition with road transport. That is where we need to win market share.

I am pleased that the difficult debate on the complete separation of infrastructure and operations has been postponed until a later date, not least because – in my country anyway, which is a small country with a very dense network – separating them to too great an extent has resulted in much disruption and many additional costs, without bringing any new benefits or new entrants. What is the point of it, then? There are not really enough new entrants.

Secondly, I believe that what we clearly need is a strong and independent regulator. We need a separation, but we also need essential functions. We should look at it function by function and not ideologically, so as to see which functions actually need to be separated. When one goes so far as to say, for example, that IT services or human resources should be separated, I do not really see how that will help create economies of scale.

Thirdly, with regard to rail services, I believe that, on this issue too, my colleague, Mr Cramer, and I tabled an amendment to Article 13. If a workshop does not have the residual capacity to accept a new request, why should we try to force it to accept it, unless we want to disrupt the work it is already doing or the service it is already providing?

I believe, therefore, that some interesting work has been done. A huge amount of work awaits us, and there are a few points here where I feel the text could still be improved slightly.

 
  
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  Peter van Dalen (ECR). (NL) Madam President, I am of the view that the liberalisation of goods transport by rail will offer this sector a genuine future. In my country, in 2002, we separated infrastructure management from goods transport by rail and thus succeeded in stopping, and turning around, many years of decline in goods transport. As a result, we again had prospects of real growth and opportunities for entrepreneurs.

With the recast of the First Railway Package, the European Commission also wants to continue with the liberalisation. However, when it comes to this issue, this Parliament has managed to discuss everything except genuine liberalisation. I believe that is a missed opportunity. Too many speakers have been too ready to listen to protectionist railways, to poorly functioning national railway companies or to railway unions, the low point being the last sentence of Amendment 53, whereby infrastructure managers continue to be too closely linked financially to freight operators. Therefore, this is no real separation.

I am therefore voting against this report despite the rapporteur’s good work. There are still too many old-fashioned protectionist attitudes in the railway sector – in the majority of this House. This means that the future of goods transport by rail will be brought to a standstill.

 
  
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  Jacky Hénin (GUE/NGL).(FR) Madam President, the results of the railway packages are damning. Even the rapporteurs admit that the volume of freight is falling, while road transport, which emits millions of tonnes of CO2, has gained even more ground. Infrastructure is in a state of collapse due to the lack of financing. In a ridiculous attempt to compete with air transport, we are prioritising high speed at the expense of local service frequency and of the regional network effect.

Liberalisation results in fewer and fewer services for users. Despite some very timid statements of principle regarding employment conditions, the proposal being made to us, once again, is that rail companies should be further broken up. This is counterproductive and very dangerous for rail safety. It disregards, in the name of liberal dogma, a decades-old culture of rail workers and rail techniques.

What is needed, instead, is for integrated national public rail companies to be rebuilt; this should include everything from infrastructure to the specification of equipment, and should also take in the passenger and freight sectors and research and development. Then, starting from there, we will be able to build a European public rail hub in the form of an economic interest grouping.

Funding for major rail infrastructure could be provided by the European Investment Bank. The Europe of the railways should not be intended as a centre in which a few groups make a profit. Rather, it should be aimed at meeting the mobility needs of European citizens and the need to transport safe, environmentally friendly materials: goods.

 
  
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  Dominique Riquet (PPE).(FR) Madam President, I would like to thank Ms Serracchiani.

On the occasion of this vote, I am delighted with a number of advances relating to the power of national regulators, their networking on a European scale, the improved certainty of infrastructure planning and charging, the improved opening up of the provision of basic facilities to competition and the internalisation of certain costs such as noise.

Nevertheless, a certain number of fundamental points remain to be addressed: the full unbundling of infrastructure management and transport operations, the opening up of competition at regional and national level, the establishment of interoperability, the harmonisation of rail transport by strengthening the role of the European Railway Agency and social harmonisation by raising the status of railway workers.

We eagerly await the admission of these subjects to the agenda in 2012, as agreed by the Commission.

These essential reforms are vital to promote rail transport and increase its competitiveness, something which is not effectively guaranteed by the modest reform of this first railway package.

 
  
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  Bogusław Liberadzki (S&D). (PL) Madam President, I am pleased to share the view expressed by the rapporteur, Ms Debora Serracchiani, as well as by Mr El Khadraoui, on the delay in creating a common economic area for railways in Europe. There are examples of countries, and I have my own country in mind as one of them, in which the functioning of the railways is rapidly deteriorating, in technical, operational and organisational terms. I therefore gladly welcome the Commission’s initiative for Europe to be more involved in managing the railways.

It is important that railways in the EU should have good access to its eastern neighbours which operate a wider track gauge on their railways.

There is an amendment by a group of Members which seeks to facilitate such integration by excluding a section of wide track from Russia and Ukraine to Katowice on Polish territory. This involves excluding it from the application of only some of the articles of this directive. I would ask that you support this amendment.

 
  
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  João Ferreira (GUE/NGL). (PT) Madam President, rail transport is a sector of strategic importance for economic development, energy and the environment. It ensures mobility and transport of people and goods, invigorates the economy and promotes territorial cohesion. By its very nature and character, this sector calls for long-term investment and long-term development strategies, pursuing aims which have to do with the public interest and public service and are incompatible with the mercantile outlook represented by this railway package.

This package puts business interests before everything: private business profit supported by public investment. The break-up that is proposed here is tailor-made for the multinationals within the sector, which are already taking over rail transport and colonising the markets for related services in various countries.

An instructive example is that of the German multinational DB, which controls more than 60% of European freight. The liberalisation of the sector has been to the disadvantage of the general public, which is left with fewer, inferior and more expensive services, and to the disadvantage of the workers, what with the increased exploitation of the workforce on a European scale, while safety standards are dangerously jeopardised, subordinated as they are to freedom of competition.

These have been the results of liberalisation so far, and these, only even worse, will be the results of its continuation.

 
  
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  Artur Zasada (PPE). (PL) Madam President, I would like to congratulate Ms Serracchiani on a very good job. Over the last few months, the matter of recasting the first railway package has been the main and perhaps the most difficult dossier with which the Committee on Transport and Tourism has had to deal. By adopting a series of compromise amendments, it has been possible to reach an agreement which demonstrates the determination of all political groups. We all wish to travel by train in a comfortable environment, safely, and as quickly as possible and, when we go to a station, to be able to buy, at one counter, a single ticket for connections involving different operators. We are determined to achieve that goal.

We must, however, remember and be careful not to make mistakes. When aiming at free competition on the rail services market, we must remember that in some Member States, there are self-financed railways that do not link up to the national or European network, which have only industrial significance, and which operate on gauges which are different from the dominant one. The need to apply all the provisions of the directive to these separate lines, including unbundling, will result in a disproportionate and unreasonable burden and will disrupt and distort the purpose for which they have been developed.

I therefore ask that, during the vote on Wednesday, you support Amendment 135 tabled by myself, Mr Marcinkiewicz and the European Conservatives and Reformists Group and signed by dozens of Members from various political groups and Member States.

 
  
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  Mathieu Grosch (PPE).(DE) Madam President, Mr Kallas, I, too, would first like to thank the rapporteur for her work. She and many others have poured plenty of cold water on this issue throughout discussions. Not everyone’s expectations have been met in full. That is the nature of any compromise, however.

This nine-year-old railway package has still not been implemented. That is why I have a difficulty when certain people here seek to convince us that what is happening with the railways today basically boils down to the liberalisation that failed to materialise nine years ago. This is a little absurd.

What was it that Parliament wanted to achieve? We wanted greater efficiency. We wanted to create space for the railways. We also wanted the railways of the future to have a bigger market share because we knew that this was necessary for many reasons in relation to passenger and road transport. This implementation has not taken place because, as I would argue, the railway has not been a top priority in many countries. I am convinced that even if we produce the best legislation, if the Council does not play ball tomorrow, despite our decisions, we will find other people standing here in five or 10 years time saying exactly the same thing.

We have been modest in our proposals. We wanted to address various topics. Our primary concern is that we should have a strong regulator who will respect the regulations as they now stand and who will organise the opening up of the market in such a way that the railways will have a greater market share, provide more jobs and achieve greater efficiency.

When it comes to funding and the relationship between service providers and infrastructure operators, I must honestly say that the discussions of recent weeks have been almost etymological in nature. What we wanted is actually quite simple: that public monies, or what has been paid for with public monies, should be paid back by the market not just through profits. These are subsidies and must be ring-fenced. I hope that this point will be understood in the Council and Commission tomorrow. We will then have a good basis for further discussions next year.

 
  
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  Georges Bach (PPE).(FR) Madam President, Commissioner, I would like to start by thanking the rapporteur and all the speakers for their work on this report.

Above all, this document will consolidate the powers of national regulators responsible for overseeing the correct application of rules by railway undertakings and providing non-discriminatory access to infrastructure.

Realistically, however, this document will not resolve all the sector’s problems. The quality of customer service and safety should be a key focus. In addition to fair conditions of competition, there is an urgent need for investment in infrastructure and equipment, for an increase in rolling-stock capacity, for the simplification of procedures, for technical interoperability on a European level, as well as for improved technical and social conditions.

Yet, unfortunately, we are currently seeing the opposite trend in many countries: services and connections are being cancelled, stations are being closed and the number of jobs in the sector is falling.

This is certainly not in keeping with the ideological vision of full liberalisation which we are working towards.

 
  
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  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (S&D).(RO) Madam President, the recast of the directive establishing a single European railway area consolidates and clarifies the requirements of the previous directives. I welcome the obligation on the part of the Member States to adopt a national railway infrastructure development programme over a period of at least seven years. Only by investing in rail transport will we be able to increase its market share. The conditions of access to the railway infrastructure should not make it impossible for passengers to obtain information on, or to purchase a ticket for, travel from one location to another, regardless of the number of railway transport operators providing passenger transport services between those two locations.

I believe that the separation of the provision of rail transport services from rail infrastructure management should not have negative consequences for social and employment conditions in this sector. I call on the Commission to cooperate with the relevant trade unions and users’ representatives in order to monitor technical and economic conditions and market developments in European rail transport, including employment in this sector.

 
  
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  Elżbieta Katarzyna Łukacijewska (PPE). (PL) Madam President, adopted in 2001, the railway package was intended to ensure the integration of the railway sector and enhance its attractiveness compared to other transport modes. Unfortunately, despite 10 years having passed and despite the favourable conditions, the European railway sector has been unable to develop. While road transport is growing all the time, and there are no problems in crossing borders, rail freight and rail passenger transport encounter numerous legal, technical and political obstacles.

This shows how difficult it is to create a single railway area and a better, passenger friendly and simplified railway policy. We must remember, however, that any solution to this problem must take account of different management systems in this sector in the individual EU countries and different levels of railway development and infrastructure quality. At the same time, we must not squander the great potential of this sector, which, unfortunately, is not exploited properly.

 
  
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  Vasilica Viorica Dăncilă (S&D).(RO) Madam President, the development of the European rail sector is vital if the Union is to rise to the competition and challenges facing it and satisfy the requirements of all beneficiaries. I believe that it would be beneficial to link rail transport as closely as possible with transport by inland waterways so as to ensure the best possible coverage of the entire territory of the EU and meet CO2 emission reduction targets.

It is vital to consult local and regional authorities in order to develop national railway infrastructure strategies and to support states with less developed networks. I also believe that EU Member States should use the Structural Funds more extensively for priority transport projects, including those relating to cross-border connections and urban mobility, and that more Member States should participate in the development of specialised networks in order to avoid the emergence of a multi-speed Europe where transport networks are concerned. Thank you.

 
  
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  Marian-Jean Marinescu (PPE).(RO) Madam President, it is obvious that rail transport has not developed in line with other transport sectors. The proposal on the establishment of a single European railway area set out to improve this situation. It has not been entirely successful but has made some progress. Unfortunately, there are still some Member States and railway companies which do not want genuine liberalisation of the railways. The package improves non-discriminatory access to service facilities, such as maintenance and repair or refuelling, and increases the transparency of the institutional framework of the rail market. National regulatory bodies are created to prevent discriminatory practices. These bodies should be completely independent of the railway industry and national governments if they are to be able to perform their functions.

The total independence of rail transport operators from infrastructure managers has not been achieved, but the separation of profit and loss accounting has been implemented.

 
  
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  Jaroslav Paška (EFD). (SK) Madam President, even despite the significant support provided by the European Union, railway transport is stagnating and still lags behind the performance of road transport. The first collection of regulations on railway transport in 2001 has not fulfilled the expectations of meaningful improvement and a significant increase in the attractiveness of the railway sector. Continuing differences in domestic regulations result in the fact that, while air or road transport extends beyond borders in an unhindered way, international railway services meet technical and legislative obstacles when they cross borders.

As such – if we plan to continue to build a common, integrated railway network – we have to harmonise the regulations governing transport over the Union’s railway network consistently. We can bring about an increase in the competitiveness of railway transport compared with road or air transport only by simplifying rail transport.

The organisational separation of the railway infrastructure network from the operators of transport and maintenance services will surely help in making the competitive environment in the railway sector more attractive.

However, it is essential to think also about the precise distribution of responsibility, mainly regarding safety, between the participants contributing to the operation of the system as a whole. Railway transport is regarded as safe, but accidents on railway lines usually involve extensive damage. For this reason, it is necessary to collect data on these accidents at an EU level.

 
  
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  Franz Obermayr (NI).(DE) Madam President, despite the fact that our roads are overcrowded, that people find themselves stuck for hours in traffic every day, and that rail travel can make a significant contribution to the reduction in CO2 emissions, we have still failed to switch traffic to the rail network, despite decades of trying.

When it comes to passenger transport, there is just one simple calculation required: train tickets must always be cheaper than the petrol costs for the same journey for one person. This unsatisfactory price/service ratio also depends on the market structure. As a network operation, rail travel constitutes a natural monopoly. This fact is exploited in order to exclude other market operators from competing. Naturally, this reduces the attraction for new operators, new services and, in the final analysis, for the customer.

Thus, if liberalisation is to be achieved, we need transparency and independent regulators. In relation to transport reform, the Commission should evaluate the results of the third energy package and draw up rational options that also guarantee independent network operators.

 
  
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  Siim Kallas, Vice-President of the Commission. – Madam President, these remarks reflect a large variety of the details of this complex matter. I think that this railway recast legislation is worthy of support. It has some important elements, such as clear and efficient rules on infrastructure, financing and charging, the strengthening of national regulators – so the regulatory dimension will be strengthened and will be very important in our future deliberations – and better access to rail-related services. So these are elements which clearly show improvements in this railway recast package.

Of course, a lot of things will remain for the future. It is far from the end of the story – it is one step. I must ensure that our main aim is to create an attractive railway area and in order for this to happen, railways need punctuality, reliability and speed to compete with roads, and they must operate in Europe as a whole. These are the basic points. Then we can also create more jobs in the railway sector if railways offer better services for people and businesses.

So we will work on the next package and let us follow our ambitions.

 
  
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  Debora Serracchiani, rapporteur.(IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, it is true, as my colleagues who have already spoken have said, that this proposal for a directive has been a very complex task, involving 724 amendments leading to 18 compromise texts. These compromise texts include Article 7, mentioned by the Commissioner, in which Parliament invites the Commission to make a proposal for national market separation and liberalisation by 31 December 2012.

None of the proposals are in any way premature – instead, there is a clear invitation with an equally clear and precise direction. If this direction had been present from the start, it would probably have helped with the management of this extremely long railway recast. In the meantime, my assistant has had a baby, so this really has been a long and complicated gestation period, but I am sure that we understand the importance of expanding the railway system.

We have said that we need a competitive railway system. In that case, we need to have rules. We do not necessarily need many rules, but they have to be clear, and to be complied with by everyone. We know that there is a problem of free competition on the railway market, particularly with regard to freight transport. The ambition of the railway recast is to create the single European market.

Therefore, we are issuing a strong invitation to the Commission to make a clear proposal before the end of next year and, given that next year is so close, we propose that work should begin so that Parliament can fulfil its own legislative role, also because the text very recently issued by the Council is extremely cautious, including with regard to the proposals.

Therefore, we hope that Parliament will give us a clear and full mandate to carry out a complete negotiation process that will truly open up the single European market to all the expectations to which – I am picking up on the shout of pain from Mr Cancian – we must provide a response.

 
  
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  President. – That concludes the debate on this item.

The vote will take place at 12.00 on Wednesday, 16 November 2011.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Bogdan Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz (PPE), in writing. (PL) In view of tomorrow’s vote on the revision of the first railway package, I would like to draw attention to a number of important aspects which might play a key role in the future of the EU’s railways. In some Member States, there are certain lines with a different track gauge as a remnant of the old post-Soviet system, as a result of which these lines do not form part of the national or EU railway system. Such lines were deliberately built to meet regional needs in terms of the transport of goods from third countries. The length of these lines and the traffic on them are not usually included in the calculation of trains per kilometre for national transport purposes. Member States should therefore be able to exclude such lines and the operators serving them from the application of the directive. Consequently, together with Mr Zasada, I have tabled Amendment 135 in order to resolve the issues I have mentioned.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (NI), in writing. (DE) Ten years ago, there were already worrying signs of stagnation in the railway sector. Despite all the liberalisation projects at EU level, rail transport never managed to gain ground vis-à-vis other modes of transport. One of the reasons for this may be that many countries have invested billions in their road infrastructure, so that funding for rail transport has suffered as a result. The high rail infrastructure costs in comparison with other modes of transport are, however, one of the greatest obstacles to combined transport. This makes it all the more important that flagship projects such as the development of the Baltic-Adriatic axis should be pushed forward. The Baltic-Adriatic axis is an international economic lifeline that will cater for the infrastructural development of the volume of transport that will move from road to rail in the coming decades, bringing with it new potential between north-eastern Europe and the Adriatic region. However, as we focus on cross-border passenger and combined transport, we should not forget about regional lines. After all, massive savings were achieved here over the last decade. If there are no regional connections to international and EU cross-border rail transport, then potential customers will be excluded. It is also necessary to prevent the risk that the liberalisation of rail transport could lead to a concentration on attractive main routes and a consequent decline in services to rural regions.

 
  
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  Vilja Savisaar-Toomast (ALDE), in writing. (ET) The main objectives of the first railway package, which entered into force in 2003, were the creation of a united railway region, the licensing of railway enterprises and the optimisation of the use of railway infrastructure and the setting of usage fees. Unfortunately, the desired objectives were not achieved for the following reasons: 1) the infrastructure’s insufficient and less prioritised financing in comparison with road transport; 2) the obstruction of competition; 3) the scarcity and ineffectiveness of supervisory organisations. The rapporteur initially proposed complete separation, i.e. the proprietor of the infrastructure and the organiser of the freight transport must not be one and the same organisation. This modification has been implemented in Estonia. This has, however, created great opposition, both in the TRAN Committee and in different political groups. At the moment, greater separation is recommended to Member States, but in order to achieve complete separation, the Commission would have to make a proposal based on research. At the same time, the opening of the domestic market in passenger transport to new entrants and their fair treatment is demanded, including in the establishment of infrastructure charges and the planning of travel times. One of the most important items for discussion is the further funding of infrastructure, in which there is a perceived need for greater public sector participation that would develop the EU’s rail network more extensively. This also sets recommended and permitted marginal rates for charges, which should guarantee all market participants equal treatment and sufficient funding for rail infrastructure. At the same time, the Baltic States are left with the opportunity to apply higher charges, since their rail width differs from that of the EU system, and their rail network is mainly used to transport third-country goods; to date, this desired practice has functioned well.

 
  
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  Csanád Szegedi (NI), in writing.(HU) Even if we make every effort to put the economies of the European Union’s Member States on the path to growth, this alone will not be enough to offer Europe a way out of its current crisis unless we make the energy investments required by it. Sensible harmonisation of Europe’s railways is vital in terms of Europe’s continued development. However, I think it is particularly important to point out that the crisis in Europe is not only economic; it is also a societal and social crisis. In view of this, it is not only European railways that need to be harmonised; harmonisation of railway employees’ pay also needs to take place. We can only back this report with the proviso that it brings about an improvement in the livelihoods and living conditions of Hungarian railway employees.

 
  
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  Dominique Vlasto (PPE), in writing.(FR) Ten years after the first railway package, the report on the single rail market is somewhat lacking: while rail freight’s modal share continues to fall, taking the train from one Member State to another still seems to be very complicated. If we want rail transport to stand up to the economic and environmental issues of the single market, it is imperative that we improve current legislation, which has given too much leeway to a market that is struggling to become less fragmented. At a time when the Commission is about to open domestic passenger transport to competition, regulations should no longer vary so widely from one Member State to another, as this risks increasing distortions of competition that already penalise passengers and certain railway undertakings. The new directive rightly aims to tackle these obstacles to competition by reinforcing the powers of national regulators, price transparency and the independence of infrastructure managers. I therefore urge those of you who want to organise free and non-distorted competition between railway operators, and to propose opportunities for alternative and more affordable rail transport to our fellow citizens, to adopt the recast of the railway package tomorrow.

 
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