Customers often have a choice of different transport modes to move their goods. If rail is to be an attractive option it must bring down its costs. Today rail is still too expensive vis-à-vis the competition, due in part to the divergent operational rules, language requirements, signalling systems, technical requirements for equipment. These create unnecessary complexities and reduce economies of scale for the rail business. It is essential that infrastructure managers move towards one standard infrastructure, the concept of the “Single European Railway Area”, if rail is to be cost-effective. National rules and requirements continue to block rail’s ability to compete with road transport.
Top 5 ERFA priorities to reduce rail costs:
A single signalling system for the whole European rail network is a must if rail is to remove the excessive costs linked to crossing national borders and improve economies of scale by reducing product diversity. However side by side with accelerating ERTMS deployment the lack of a business case for today’s railway undertakings, who face the costs, but very little of the benefits of ERTMS must be addressed as a priority.
Infrastructure cost efficiency
It is essential that national governments and infrastructure managers support rail’s competitiveness with long-term objectives to make cost savings in the provision of rail services and infrastructure management, especially in view of the natural monopoly position enjoyed by the infrastructure manager. Member States have an obligation in current European legislation to put in place incentives for infrastructure managers to reduce their costs and the level of access charges. This provision must be applied in all EU Member States.
Lower Track Access Charges
Rail users are not expected to cover the whole costs of rail infrastructure, nor are they expected to cover the costs of state-owned rail operator companies’ losses, but lack of transparency in the way charges are passed on to railway undertakings leads to concerns that they are paying too much, undermining rail’s ability to grow and attract new customers. New EU rules creating greater transparency, cost efficiency and predictability in access charges must be properly enforced.
Rail Freight Noise
The abatement of rail freight noise must be addressed in a way that does not drive up the cost of rail freight and limit competitiveness with road transport. That means supporting a European-wide approach to dealing with noisy wagons, avoiding national unilateral measures, and support measures to incentivise the retrofitting of wagons with quieter brakes over a realistic timeframe.
Longer and heavier trains
Allowing longer and heavier trains to run on the European rail network boosts the efficiency of operations and an increase in transport capacity, making rail freight more competitive. Targeted investment in infrastructure to enable longer and heavier trains, particularly on the main European freight corridors, is urgently needed.