Walenberg Rail Assessment - Articles and news items
Read an exclusive interview with Karel Vinck – the European Commission’s European Coordinator for ERTMS, an article about Norway’s ERTMS plans from Jernbaneverket’s Project Manager Eivind Skorstad, plus an article about recent GSM-R achievements and its evolution from Dan Mandoc at the UIC…
Issue 1 2013 / 18 February 2013 /
Encouraging competition is at the heart of the European Commission’s vision for the continent’s railways. The theory goes that competition between operators will improve customer service, lead to better financial outcomes and result in modal shift to the railways, bringing about benefits such as reduced road congestion and reductions in carbon emissions.
The Commission looks at the road and air sectors and seeks to draw lessons from the way competition works in them. A lorry can travel from Rotterdam to Rome, or an aircraft can fly from Stansted to Stuttgart, with little regard for borders. Road vehicles and aircraft can cross borders easily, with the road or airway much the same on one side as on the other. Competing haulage firms or airlines can come in and seek to win traffic with few entry barriers.
This is the model that has driven the Commission’s railway policy. Thus, European Directive 91/440 requires a formal separation of activities of railway operation and management of infrastructure through separate accounts. The idea is to have the railway infrastructure managed more like a motorway or an airport, with the infrastructure manager charging competing operators to use the railway in the same way an airport owner charges airlines. This vertical separation has not been without controversy: Critics point out that in North America, where wheel and rail are in the same hands, rail freight has grown much faster than it has in Europe.
Nevertheless, the Commission regards vertical separation as a key policy for taming the power of monolithic state railways and encouraging new entrants into the industry. Making infrastructure management separate from the operations means new entrants can get a price for a path on the railway and compete with the incumbent operator.
Other directives have built on the founda – tions laid by 91/440. One problem the railway has by comparison with the air and road sectors is that technical specifications vary widely across the European Union.
A lorry from Poznań in Poland can drive on the road and observe traffic signals in Peterborough in the UK, while an aircraft taking off from Paris in France is equipped to land safely in Pisa in Italy. Not so with the railways. A multiplicity of operating rules and different types of equipment are spread across Europe and historically it has been difficult to cross borders. Often, locomotive changes are required for a train to be able to proceed into another country, with only certain loco types compatible with national signalling systems.