The European Union is an economical and
political union of its 27 European member countries of 450 million people. The
Union has also a strong role on railroading in the member
European Union as a
European Union regulates the actions of the railroading in its member
countries. Basically, all railroading within these nmust be divided to
anyone has been
able to operate on the member countries freight networks from the
beginning of the year 2007 and the beginning of year 2010 will mark the
opening for free passenger traffic competition as well. While the
Europe has been lagging strongly
behind in freight traffic volumes and rail market share compared with
the U.S.A. where the competition has existed for longer (in a way from
the very beginning), the figures fro European Union from year 2007 show
in volumes and given some time probably in market share
against the road traffic as well. So the liberalization can be seen as
a good act from the union. Some old companies like Fret SNCF (French
National railwways freight division) and Trenitalia might disagree
because they have been suffering heavily. However, for instance in
France there has been a lot of new customers for the rail traffic and
customers are also telling they are getting punctual service in areas
where the SNCF earlier negelcted them!
which is mainly publicly owned, and
operations which are arranged
more and more with the open market principle. Operators can also be
seaprated from the owners of rolling stock etc. alhough in many cases
the older operators also own their "moving assets".
For the currently already strong
passenger traffic sector in Europe the changes coming are not so clear.
The railroading industry is extremely capital intensive, so the changes
might be slow and the players existing even today.
A view from
Gare du Nord, the most international of the Paris' stations: The German
Deutsche Bahn ICE3 and the French SNCF TGV-Resťau unit
552 coexist here peacefully. In a few years, there might be a
war of the passengers travelling between Germany and France, the same
way as the airlines are competing of the passengers today! Both German
DB and French SNCF are digging trenches already getting ready for the
the Union has always been for free movement of people and goods between
its member countries, some of the countries, operators, trade unions
and other parties have been against this. Well, if you have operated
for decades in an environment where no competition exists and the
government always subsidizes the deficit, who would want change? The
old models can however be seen as inefficient and sometimes
backward way to arrange things. An example of one still existing
monopoly within EU, Finland: While basically open for competition the
Finnish VR Yhtyma (the traditional state owned operator) has been
guarding its lot carefully (wise from the business viewpoint, since
monopoly is always easier to operate), not letting any competitors
with their business. RHK, the infrastructure manager on the other hand
has made a demand that all the trains and locomotives should have a JKV
machine installed. This device is and old Finnish safety device that is
said to cost an incredible sum: 100'000 euros! Something that the
train operators never could afford and which will provide an additional
burden for any possible newcomers.
has now decided, due to the infrastructure bodies slowing things down
in several memeber countries taht the approval of the new international
rolling stock models for operations, that should
any type of a train or locomotive be accepted in one of its member
countries, it should have open access anywhere. This would wisely used
definitely bring alternatives to the old railroad monopolies.
Rationally, the national traditional operators were lobbying against
this, keeping their monopolies as long as possible. This new rule
should be in effect from the year 2010. Practical obstacles (axle
weight, gauge dirrenrences, elctrical systems, etc.) still remain, but
these are easier to overcome than the artificial restrictions.
point: "While the opening of the European Union Railroading for every
one makes sense, there is nothing new in this: the very first "modern"
railway in the beginning of the 19th century was operated the same way.
The railroading compny built the line and anyone owning a
railroad car and a locomotive or a horse/mule could run a train on
We will look at these beginnings closer durin the summer 2009.
Developments outside the Union
opening of the competition is happening with the countries surrounding
the European Union (or surrounded by it) as well. For example, the
Swiss competed from the very beginning with their operators of the EU
traffic and it is probable that other nations will follow the example. The Swiss operator BLS
has won several competitions in European Union memeber countires and
now operates tens of trains in Germany alone.
Created for 4rail.net by John McKey. Pictures by Ilkka
Siissalo, Sanna Siissalo and
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