The Green Deal, European Rail and the Economic recovery.
These images from space show the dramatic reduction before and after of green house gasses, such as CO and NOx caused by the Covid crisis. The dramatic drop in road transport using fossil fuels and the reduction in CO2 emissions show that the ambitious 2050 targets for Carbon neutrality are closer than we thought possible. Can this demonstration be translated into a durable improvement and still maintain mobility?
The answer must be rail. Getting freight off the roads onto rail. Getting passengers out of aircraft into carriages is the sustainable way forward.
To achieve the climate ambitions of the Green Deal and the climate law should be a great incentive to enhance rail capability, flexibility, affordability and access.
The current structure is still based on a patchwork of national monopolies, technical hurdles with little or limited competition. Passenger and rail freight services are often uncompetitive vis-à-vis other modes of transport both in terms of reliability and costs.
The Commission has done a great deal through the various railway packages to liberalize rail. But Member States have often not been very helpful as they have several times resisted further market liberalization proposed by the Commission. A lot more remains to be done to make rail a more attractive option for passengers and freight.
Ticketing is one example. Try buying a ticket from Brussels to Madrid – as many tried when when the famous volcano eruption in Iceland closed the skies or more recently when the COP meeting was rescheduled to be in Spain. It is complex, expensive, slow and sometimes practically impossible.
The younger generation would prefer rail. But the offerings are not yet sufficiently competitive.
Similar problems exist for freight where trains are too short, slow and unreliable in terms of keeping to schedules.
To achieve the longer term aims of the Green Deal and climate is a great opportunity to enhance the Europe rail system. One of the ways to do that will be to increase investment in rail infrastructure, enhance competition, and to remove complex regulatory hurdles. This investment in rail systems should be one of the major planks of the economic recovery.
In the same way as the EU Commission facilitated the liberalization of telecoms and energy markets, a single market in rail should be re-inforced, and new entrants with new offerings given an incentive to generate new services for passenger and freight services for a greener EU.
Dirk Hudig – 20 April, 2020