What it needs to make rail freight competitive

07. 01. 2020

Libor Lochman has been Executive Director of the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER) since 1 January 2012 - in the RCG-Talk

For more than thirty years CER has been making the case for the European rail operating community vis à vis the EU Commission and legislators.

We stand by and reiterate at every possible occasion the core message that rail is key for European mobility, key for ensuring the sustainability of that mobility, and ultimately a key piece of the jigsaw puzzle the EU must urgently put together if we want to take our fight against climate change seriously.

What it needs to make rail freight competitive

by Libor Lochman


We need fair user-pays and polluter-pays charging across the transport modes; the current revision of the Eurovignette Directive is a chance we cannot miss to ensure the widest possible application of these fundamental principles.

We also need to redress the current Emission Trading Scheme: aviation’s free allowances must be phased out and road transport must also be subject to carbon pricing.

Taxation on energy as well as VAT regimes must change in a way to ensure equal treatment for all modes.

Rail infrastructure development must be supported by a strong Connecting Europe Facility, something that should reflect the high ambitions of the Commission.

Social legislation and passenger rights must be fair across modes: the protection of workers’ and customers’ rights cannot constitute a competitive burden for railways.

Last but not least, there are so many ideas to give rail freight a fair chance to compete!

To name but a few:

  • Without prejudice to the charging principles set by Directive 2012/34, the European Commission could push Member States to waive part of railways’ track access charges to compensate them for the unpaid environmental, accident and infrastructure costs of competing transport modes in so far as these costs exceed the equivalent costs of rail;
  • The European Commission could encourage spatial planning and industrial policies at Member State level that encourage the grouping of industries in order to allow cargo bundling with limited lastmile operation, maybe via special provisions linked to the European Structural and Investment Funds or by any other means of hard or soft legislation that would serve the same purpose;
  • Various international provisions could be adjusted in order to ensure digitalisation of all accompanying transport and customs documents and thus increase system efficiency.

In the meantime, we very much welcome the intensive work the Commission is doing on sustainable finance. Funding remains a fundamental responsibility of the EU as well as of national governments but the Commission’s efforts to re-orient private investments towards sustainable projects are important. They offer great hope to railway companies that are today not only ready to compete against one another on the passenger and freight markets, but also ready to accept the challenge of competing on the equity market to attract new capitals for new development opportunities.