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EU transport chief says ‘single European railway on course with dedicated funding’

Out-Law News | 24 Sep 2014 | 3:59 pm | 2 min. read

“Dedicated infrastructure funding” has been secured for the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) project, which aims “to join East and West and all corners of a vast geographical area”, European vice-president and transport commissioner Siim Kallas has said .

Kallas said the project, which was adopted at the end of 2013, had taken “three years of heavy negotiations”. However, €26 billion is now available for transport infrastructure projects during the EU’s ‘multi-annual financial framework’ (MFF) for 2014-2020.

Kallas said the amount is three times more than allocated for 2007-2013 and would allow the EU “to move forward with plans for a single European area railway”.

“We are now thinking less of individual projects and more of a core network of strategic corridors,” Kallas said. “Railways are a key part of the network that we plan to build. In fact, we couldn’t think about a functioning TEN-T without rail, particularly in the nine corridors that will form the backbone of the new TEN-T.”

Kallas said the “big challenge ahead” is now the implementation of related infrastructure projects, which require “commitment, dedication and strong will from all stakeholders”. Kallas said none of the projects could move forward without “proper rail services” being in place.

“Efficiencies gained in rail will also have a positive effect on the rest of the transport network,” Kallas said. “Still, there is a long way to go. We don’t yet have a proper cross-continental European rail network, let alone a single European rail market, more than 20 years after the first EU rail initiative.”

However, Kallas said another “big challenge” for European transport policy was to “find harmony between environmental expectations and the hopes of people and economic reality”. Kallas said: “The EU is about dismantling barriers between European nations. There are still a lot of national, economic, nationalistic, industrial, emotional and historic, and bureaucratic barriers in pan-European transport. All of them still hamper our quality of life and our competitiveness.”

Kallas said “current barriers to the functioning of market mechanisms are meant to protect isolated entities, obsolete industries, privileged companies, isolated segments of transport industry”, but they are “detrimental to a functioning European transport economy as a whole”.

Market opening will have “clear benefits” for the European economy, including the transport industry, by bringing “more private money into transport investments”, Kallas said. “More investments bring more global competitiveness, more profits, innovation and, importantly, bring more jobs.”

According to the European Commission, the 27 EU member states have some five million kilometres of paved roads, more than 215,000 km of railway lines and 41,000 km of navigable inland waterways.

The Commission said earlier this year that the first calls for transport infrastructure proposals to develop TEN-T projects would be issued in September 2014, with funding from the EU’s ‘connecting Europe facility’ (CEF).

Under CEF, nine ‘core network corridors’ have been identified that bring together public and private investment with EU support to remove bottlenecks, build “missing cross-border connections” across Europe and “promote modal integration and interoperability”.

One of the nine corridors is the ‘Rhine-Alpine Corridor’, which the Commission said is one of the busiest freight routes in Europe, connecting the North Sea ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp to the Mediterranean basin in Genoa, via Switzerland and some of the major economic centres in the Rhine-Ruhr, the Rhine-Main-Neckar, regions and the agglomeration of Milan in Northern Italy. The Commission said key projects in the corridor include tunnels from Switzerland that are partially completed and their access routes in Germany and Italy.