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Rail Manifesto: Fair Competition and Financial Support as CER's Foundational Policy Pillars

Rail Manifesto: Fair Competition and Financial Support as CER's Foundational Policy Pillars
photo: CER / Public domain/aunch Event European Rail Manifesto 'On Track For Europe' 2024-2029
29 / 04 / 2024

RAILTARGET is continuing its 'Rail Manifesto' series detailing the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies' (CER) new document, 'On Track for Europe.' As CER sets the stage for its policy direction for 2024-2029, today we delve into the first two foundational pillars of the transformative agenda.

The CER manifesto stresses the urgency of transitioning passenger and freight traffic to rail to meet the EU's climate goals. This shift is seen as essential for reducing carbon emissions and enhancing the EU’s energy security and economic cohesion.

This vision, as mentioned in our previous articles, is built on four strategic pillars:

  • Promoting fair competition across different transport modes to optimize each mode's strengths and integrate them into efficient, multimodal mobility chains.
  • Ensuring financial support for rail infrastructure to eliminate current funding deficits.
  • Deploying key technologies like the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) and Digital Automatic Coupling (DAC) to enhance rail efficiency and connectivity.
  • Reforming competition policy to align with and support the European Green Deal.

First of all, CER advocates for creating a regulatory environment where fair competition prevails, allowing each mode to excel based on its inherent efficiencies and reducing overall transport costs by 40% compared to road. Despite decades of advocacy, progress has been slow. According to CER, notable shortcomings include the stalled reforms in road infrastructure charging and the dull pace of the Energy Taxation Directive revision under the Fit for 55 initiative. The manifesto criticizes the uneven fiscal treatments, such as the VAT exemptions for international aviation tickets, which are not extended to rail tickets across all Member States.

The recent proposal to revise the Combined Transport Directive is seen as a positive development, though CER notes that its implementation remains challenging and calls for better support for national intermodal operations and faster investments in transshipment terminals.

Financial sustainability forms the core of the CER’s strategy as the second pillar. Despite a slight increase in EU rail infrastructure spending—from EUR 39.1 billion in 2015 to EUR 41.8 billion in 2020—the manifesto highlights a shortfall in investment relative to needs. Over the 2021-2030 period, the estimated funding requirement for the TEN-T Core Network alone is around EUR 500 billion. The manifesto criticizes the slow pace and inadequacy of current funding measures, emphasizing the need for comprehensive, long-term financial strategies that ensure the maintenance, renewal, and expansion of rail infrastructure.

The manifesto points out that while public grants remain essential, they are insufficient to meet all needs. It calls for a balanced approach that includes private investment to bridge funding gaps, particularly in enhancing cross-border connectivity. Additionally, the manifesto stresses the importance of aligning EU funding mechanisms, such as the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), with longer-term infrastructure goals to provide stability and predictability in funding.

As we continue our series on the CER manifesto, it becomes increasingly clear that the journey towards a sustainable European rail network is as much about innovative policy reform as it is about securing the necessary investments.

Stay tuned with RAILTARGET for further insights into how these strategies might reshape the landscape of European transport.