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Quality of Rail Freight

Quality of Rail Freight

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Published by: EKAI Center on Mar 04, 2013
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Quality of rail freight
The Commission states that, despite some progress in the last few years, thequality of rail freight in the European Union has barely improved. The Commissionis putting together a range of proposals with the aim of raising the level of servicein this sector and, more generally, to develop the transport of goods by rail.
Communication from the Commission to the Council and the EuropeanParliament of 8 September
2008 on the “The
quality of rail freight
services” [
Not published in the Official Journal].
This Communication gives an analysis of the quality of rail freight services, theeffectiveness of the agreements and voluntary measures implemented by thesector as well as the recommendations for Community action to be implemented inthis area. The Commission emphasises that the performance of rail freight has notdeteriorated since 2004 and even substantially increased in 2006. It notes howeverthat this trend seems rather fragile since it is the result of external factors such asthe increases in oil prices, road congestion and weather conditions unfavourable toinland waterway transport.The concept of quality can be understood in two ways: the level of service proposedand offered and compliance with contractual commitments. It can also cover otheraspects such as availability of the service, safety and security.
Progress made by rail freight
 The Commission notes that customer information and the commercialresponsiveness of rail freight operators have constantly improved over the last fewyears. Moreover, the incumbent rail operators have embarked on restructuring their
output. The development of competition in particular has stimulated rationalisation,the emergence of new methods, and new production methods and an extension of the services offered. Despite this progress, the Commission regrets that the qualityof railway services remains inferior to what the road sector can offer.The sector as a whole committed itself to improving freight quality, in particularunder the framework of a Charter signed in July 2003 by the International Union of Railways (UIC), the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies(CER) and the International Rail Transport Committee (CIT) (Annex I).Furthermore, many incumbent operators have embarked on a policy of certificationof the quality of their services (Annex II). Finally, quality clauses are appearing incontracts more and more often.
Guidelines from the Commission
 The Commission regrets the lack of information regarding the quality of rail freight.The information most widely available concerns the punctuality of trains, whichoverall is increasing only very slightly and remains poor (Annexes III and IV).According to the Commission, as a priority, improvements must be made to trafficmanagement, which presupposes in particular the use of new technologies,improvements in infrastructure maintenance, reinforced cooperation betweennational infrastructure managers and much quicker development of technical andadministrative interoperability.The Commission believes that development of competition is a vital component of improvements in the quality of service, but that this is currently developing tooslowly. In order to promote competition, in the short term the Commission willfocus on:
effective application of the rules concerning competition contained in the 1st and2nd rail packages; 
recasting of the 1
rail package.Monitoring the implementation of the guidelines on State aid to railwayundertakings State aid to railway undertakings will also be an important aspect of improving the operation of the rail markets.Furthermore, the Commission will step up its action to optimise the use of infrastructure, cooperation between infrastructure managers and investment in railinfrastructure, in particular in the context of the following initiatives:
the achievement of a European network giving priority to freight COM(2007)608 final);
the TEN-T programme;
the Marco Polo programme.

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