Tuesday, November 14, 2017

New EU Rules on Rail Infrastructure Coordination Warmly Welcomed by Freight Body

ERFA Happy That Some Recommendations Being Acted On After Rastatt
Shipping News Feature
EUROPE – Following the Rastatt Crisis and the series of planned construction works that severely disrupted Europe’s North- South rail traffic flows during the early summer, the EU has adopted rules to improve international coordination of infrastructure works, news which has been welcomed by the European Rail Freight Association (ERFA) as it commends the EU's plan to create a more customer-orientated rail network, and taking an important step in improving the reliability and quality of rail services.

Improved rail performance is essential to make rail a more attractive transport mode for customers and to encourage modal shift from road to eco-friendly rail, but late information regarding planned disruptions, limited provision of and/or unsuitable diversionary routes and uncoordinated infrastructure works across one or more networks all contribute to a poor quality of rail service. The new framework provides basic consultation and coordination obligations for infrastructure managers aimed at minimising disruptions to rail services.

One of the key components is that infrastructure managers of rail networks should be facilitated by long-term investment commitments from national governments. It is an obligation under existing EU rules for Member States to commit long term public financing for rail, thereby providing a stable framework for infrastructure development. The ERFA hopes that joint efforts by national governments and infrastructure managers to support their rail sector will guarantee the viability of competitive rail transport in Europe.

ERFA highlights, in particular, the following positive changes for capacity restrictions impacting international rail services:

  • Early advance warning – For major capacity restrictions (more than 7 days, affecting 30% of traffic) infrastructure managers are obliged to set up a coordination platform, together with users and service facilities to prepare timetables, including the provision of diversionary routes.
  • Early coordination work – Infrastructure managers, including those impacted by the rerouting of trains, are obliged to coordinate amongst themselves capacity restrictions more than 24 months before changes to the working timetable.
  • Involvement of users in the early coordination work – Railway undertakings and service facilities have a right, subject to invitation from the infrastructure managers, to be involved in the coordination work for international rail services.
  • Early and clear communication – The planned day, time of day, the section of lines affected and the capacity of diversionary lines shall be provided to users more than 24 months in advance and updated 12 months in advance of the change in the working timetable.
  • Planning that minimises rail disruption – For the most disruptive capacity restrictions (more than 30 days and affecting more than 50% of traffic) at least 2 alternatives of capacity restrictions shall be offered to users, indicating the duration of the disruption and available capacity on diversionary lines.

ERFA says that the new rules are a positive step in the right direction and urges infrastructure managers to start working on their effective implementation as soon as they enter into force at the end of the year. Nothing prevents infrastructure managers from going over and beyond the basic framework to support rail’s growth and competitiveness.

The impact of the changes will start to be felt from the 2018 timetable change, but most will kick in for the 2019 timetable change, with the full impact being felt for the 2020 timetable change.

PHOTO: The Rastatt Tunnel collapse disrupted the European rail network for months, causing massive disruption to the continent’s logistics.