European sustainability councils call for a boost in the post-pandemic shift to rail for international travel
Europe can and must do more to improve international passenger travel by rail. This will contribute towards the EU’s environmental goals, will enhance the economic competitiveness of agglomerations and stimulate sustainable tourism. Moreover, the transport sector will need support from the EU to prevent decline in the wake of the current COVID-19-crisis. This support can be used as an incentive for a post-pandemic shift to a more sustainable and efficient mobility system throughout the European Union. Now is the time to support a shift from aviation to trains, specifically for short-haul flights. A European consortium of governmental advisory councils therefore urges the European Commission to take this opportunity to boost international passenger rail.
Lack of international cooperation due to focus on domestic needs
Up until now, the international rail network consists primarily of interlinked national systems which are optimised to meet domestic needs. This pushes the needs of the international traveller to the background. The councils conclude that the lack of international cooperation persists because public authorities, rail carriers and infrastructure managers are primarily held to account for their performance in providing domestic services and to a lesser degree for international services.
Travel info, ticketing and passenger rights
The quality of international travel information and ticketing is below par. Travelers want a single service point and a single ticket for their international train journey. In a short space of time, much can be achieved by providing adequate travel information, simplifying ticketing, and improving passenger rights. To that end, there is urgent need for better EU regulation on travel information and ticketing and the ongoing revision of the EU Regulation on passengers’ rights presents an opportunity to improve just that.
Need for a corridor authority
The councils see a need for an improved international coordination on the main rail links between the major urban centres in Europe. The councils are in favour of an EU regulation establishing a European governance structure for the rail network, as better coordination on this level is essential for improving international rail connectivity. This pan-European initiative could start with international coordination along separate core corridors for passenger transport within Europe: Rail Passenger Corridors. Ultimately, a European corridor authority should be able to supervise and monitor international rail traffic. This authority should also be able to coordinate between public and private rail parties concerned, to accommodate with international rail services in the interests of international rail passengers.
Call for a major boost
The councils call upon the European Commission to give priority to further improvement of international passenger transport by rail. So far the European approach has leaned heavily on stimulating market mechanisms, harmonising regulations and technical standardisation. This has not yet brought about the development of a thriving international rail market. The major boost that is needed implies an increase in political attention, speeding up policy effort and stimulating all parties concerned to improve international passenger rail even further. Better coordination across the European rail network should provide easy accessibility to excellent railservices for international travellers and bring about a huge improvement. However improvements to the speed and connectedness of the network itself are also fundamental.
You can find the lettre to Adina Valean here.
Photo Victor Hanacek