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TEN-T and CEF: a step towards a Single European Railway area

19 November 2013  •  Author: Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies

Today, the plenary of the European Parliament formally adopted the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) Guidelines and its related financial instrument, the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF). The Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER) welcomes this agreement. Together, the new TEN-T Guidelines and CEF form an important building block in the development of a well-functioning Single European Railway Area. As soon as the Council formally adopts both dossiers there will be no obstacles to their entry into force.

The new TEN-T Guidelines, which seek to improve the interoperability and interconnections between modes, contain a dual layer approach, consisting of a core network and a comprehensive network. The core network, which reflects the strategically most important parts of the TEN-T network, will, with a few exceptions, be the only part of the network eligible for EU co-financing. CER welcomes this approach as it will enable focusing scarce financial resources on projects of high European added value, such as the removal of bottlenecks, the construction of missing links and cross border projects.

For rail, the improvements of the technical requirements and the new corridor concept lie at the heart of the new transport policy. In addition to being compliant to the Technical Specifications for Interoperability for Infrastructure, the rail infrastructure in the comprehensive network must be fully electrified and equipped with ERTMS by 2050. The core network requires a nominal track gauge of 1435 mm, and freight lines must be equipped to allow for 22.5 t axle load, 100km/h line speed and be able to run trains with a length of 740m by 31 December 2030. CER strongly supports these technical standards as they are the real enablers needed to achieve the ambitious modal shift targets for the railways in Europe. Furthermore, CER specifically welcomes the electrification of railway lines on the TEN-T network as this is a necessary condition for meeting the decarbonisation targets of the Transport White Paper.

The multimodal Core Network Corridors are intended to provide a highly resource efficient infrastructure use. CER welcomes this approach as it is expected to lead to better coordination between member states and stakeholders in the planning and investment of corridors, and enable efficiency gains for the rail sector in the long run. CER is pleased that the rail part of the Core Network Corridors will be fully aligned, both geographically and in terms of governance, to the already existing rail freight corridor as established under Regulation (EU) 913/2010. As such, the rail sector is expected to play a central role in the TEN-T corridor approach.

The objectives of the TEN-T Guidelines can, however, only be fully realised if an adequate budget and financing methodology are available for supporting these activities. CER is therefore pleased that the CEF, which defines the conditions, methods and procedures for providing Union financial aid, will focus scarce financial resources on the TEN-T priorities, including rail, and will provide the necessary tools geared toward encouraging member state involvement. Rail projects can benefit from a co-financing rate of up to 20% of the eligible costs, which can be increased to 30% for rail projects addressing bottlenecks and to 40% for rail projects concerning cross-border sections. Furthermore, the CEF provides a 20% co-financing rate up to a combined ceiling of 1% of the CEF budget to be granted for actions to reduce rail freight noise, including by retrofitting existing of rolling stock, and a 10% co-financing rate for creating better accessibility to transport infrastructure for disabled persons, which can be increased to 30% for adaptation works. CER is also pleased that the 50% co-financing rate of the eligible costs for land-based and on-board components of ERTMS, which already existed under previous TEN-T policy, has been maintained.

Regarding the overall CEF budget, CER regrets that the EUR 31.7 billion originally proposed by the European Commission for the EU budget 2014-2020 has been reduced by 25% to EUR 23.2 billion. Without adequate funding, the TEN-T goals of shifting toward a more sustainable and less fossil fuels dependent transport system cannot be realised. Although the new CEF budget is a clear improvement on the EUR 8 billion allocated to the TEN-T budget under the current financial period 2007-2013, CER feels that the reduction in the CEF budget has put at risk the realisation of the 2011 White Paper goals.

CER Executive Director Libor Lochman highlighted: “I am very pleased with the adoption of both dossiers, in particular with standardising the core network corridor parameters since it will increase efficiency of rail freight. On CEF, the co-financing rates will bring progress in areas of key importance to rail. This formal adoption will certainly lead the railways into the right direction.”

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