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EXCLUSIVE: TEN-T will completely change long-distance travelling around Europe, says CEO of CER Alberto Mazzola

EXCLUSIVE: TEN-T will completely change long-distance travelling around Europe, says CEO of CER Alberto Mazzola
photo: RAILTARGET/TEN-T will completely change long-distance travelling around Europe, says CEO of CER Alberto Mazzola
07 / 12 / 2022

RAILTARGET presents you with an exclusive interview with Alberto Mazzola, CEO of CER. It was recorded in the framework of the international trade fair InnoTrans 2022 when top managers of the railway sector gathered in Berlin to discuss the future of railways. What is CER planning in the high-speed rail sector in the nearest future, and what topics make CER's agenda these days?

How did you like the opening ceremony?

It's always interesting to be at the opening ceremony because we have heard many topics. At least, the GreenDeal and the need to be environmentally friendly in how railways are performing, which is better and better in comparison with the other modes of transport. And would like to underline two points. I heard that CEO of Deutsche Bahn and, I also heard, the CEO of Siemens was referring to high speed. At CER, we are promoting and asking to have a master plan for high-speed railways to connect all the capitals and major cities in Europe. We hope that the ministers of the European Parliament will approve the introduction of the TEN-T. It will completely change long-distance travelling in Europe.

Could you tell us what kind of program is waiting for you at InnoTrans?

First of all, yesterday, we had a meeting with the Management Committee and our General Assembly at CER. Today, we are at the opening and visiting some stands. We will organize a meeting with the Commissioner for Transport, Adina Vălean, and the CEOs of our main members to discuss a few topics, such as Ukraine, timetable redesign, the energy problem and the ticketing issue. And then we follow on with the other meetings concerning women in rail, staff and train drivers and all the issues we need to address in the nearest future.

I would also like to ask you for some more information about yesterday's meeting. Could you briefly summarize the content of the meeting? What are the next steps for CER, and what topics are you planning to address?

Yesterday we, first of all, discussed intensively the question of energy, i.e., what is going on today in the European market. The electricity prices have increased dramatically, in some countries ten times, so if you can imagine that the electricity is about ten per cent of our cost or less, and it has increased by ten times, in certain businesses, it can be dramatic. What's going on now is that it is cheaper to run a diesel locomotive now than an electric one. So what we are pushing to discuss in European institutions, and what we write to the Commissioners, is that when they look for solutions for the electricity prices, they need to reflect also on the railways. We are heavily affected by this increase in electricity prices, so this is one point. Then we approved the repositioned papers on train drivers. So, what we would like to do for the train drivers in Europe in the future is to have a digital train driver's licence, for instance, we would like international train drivers to be able to know the language of the country we are entering to the certain level, B1 technically speaking. We don't think that English should be the language of train drivers. We think that they need to know the language of the country we are entering. We are not travelling for 3,000 kilometres, we are entering new countries, and when we do that, we need to speak to the infrastructure managers of these countries. But 90% of the traffic is domestic. It is why we want to travel internationally more, but the train drivers should know the languages of those other countries. Then we approved two other position papers. One is the state guidelines. Railways must be supported by states, especially because there are much lower external costs compared to aviation and road, and, to cover these, we need to be compensated. It is something we have been discussing for more than one year, and we can see that European institutions are realizing that it's more important to support rail than road and aviation. And then another point was combined transport. As you know, by train you cannot go home, or to the supermarket to buy goods, so we need to have combined transport. But with shorter road lengths and longer railways. It should be the supported business – not a long road length, but a short one. We need it to be combined, multi- and intermodal, and then the Commission will review the proposal. We are ready to review the ideas. It is what we did, although we did a bit more. I was just short. We also received two important visits yesterday. Minister Volker Vissing presented ideas about how we see railways and railway activities, and the other was the CEO of Ukrainian Railways, Oleksandr Kamyshin. They are a part of CER and let's say, CER members did a lot for Ukraine. We've transported 3.5 million Ukrainian immigrants around Europe for free, we moved a lot of goods outside and inside of Ukraine, and are still working a lot on it.

What are you planning in the sector of the high-speed railway?

As I was saying before, we very much like the commission at Trans-European Network, but they are missing one point, which is having high speed everywhere in Europe. When we are winning the competition with aviation, I can give you as an example Rome-Milan, Berlin-Munich, Barcelona-Madrid, Paris-Leon – these are high-speed lines and most people travel there by train rather than by car or plane. But our market shares more than fifty per cent in any of these parts. The same should be done for the rest of Europe. For instance, the Czech Republic, they are thinking about developing a high-speed connection between Prague and Brno and extending from Brno to Vienna and from Prague to Dresden and Berlin. It is another very good example where everybody, as soon as we have these lines, will travel rather by high-speed rail than by plane, bus or road. And we would like to see it everywhere in Europe. We've had the opportunity to discuss it with the Czech Minister of Transport, and he's very much supportive inside the European Council of Ministers, and we hope to succeed. But I think we need to push it, and push it now, otherwise, the next time will be in seven years.