This week, the European Parliament voted on new rules concerning the establishment and organisation of a European rail network for a competitive freight transport system. Prior to this vote, there had already been critical voices of labour representatives in the Transport Committee, but also of representatives of individual countries such as Germany and Austria.
The Commission proposal provides for a change in the allocation of railway lines in favour of freight transport; this, however, would be particularly at the expense of other types of transport such as passenger transport. Should this regulation, as proposed by the Commission, be enforced, passengers would have to expect bottlenecks with regard to available railway lines and as a consequence delays and cancellations in passenger traffic.

As a result of personal discussions in the Transport Committee resp. based on detailed information on the regulations provided by AK EUROPA and other employee organisations, MEPs pulled the communication cord and watered down the Commission proposal.

The most important change is probably the increased consideration of passenger traffic with respect to the allocation of railway lines. As a result, when it comes to the so-called drawing up of a timetable, it is no longer only required to take the interests of freight transport into account, but also those of public passenger transport. Apart from that, a penalty imposed in advance for reserved but not used lines shall prevent the creation of an artificial shortage of rail lines.

AK EUROPA is also critical of the fact that numerous user associations not, however, labour representatives are represented in the various working groups. A counterproductive development might also be triggered by the increased number of possible applicants for rail lines. Completely exaggerated is probably the power of veto by terminal operators with regard to decisions by the governing body (for example on the extension of railway lines); after all, this small user group does not have the sufficient motivation to take the entire coherences within the rail network into account.

Following the vote in the Plenary of the European Parliament, agreement must now be achieved in the Council. It remains, however, to be seen whether the Czech Council Presidency will be able to achieve this during its remaining time in office. It is possible that further negations will be required in the 2nd half of 2009 under the Swedish Presidency.