Cross-border liberalisation on track in Europe

<p>Europe’s rail freight industry has welcomed the arrival of cross-border liberalisation on Saturday (March 15) with a commitment on service standards intended to win customers from road.</p> <p>Privately owned rail freight operators now enjoy the right &#8211 backed by the legislative muscle of the European Commission &#8211 to run cargo trains the length and breadth of the 15 EU member states.</p> <p>But the reality is a little different, with only a handful of countries pushing ahead with national level adoption of the EC directive. </p> <p>France is now leading the call for the second wave of rail liberalisation &#8212 for domestic freight moves within a single country &#8212 to be delayed by two years until 2008.</p> <p>Private operators complain that state-owned railways are using bureaucracy and alleged safety issues to slow the opening of Europe’s cross-border freight transport.</p> <p>Meanwhile, the European Rail Freight Customer Platform of major shippers has linked up with three other players in the industry to publish a five-point regime to promote quality standards. It has joined forces with train path providers, the European Infrastructure Managers, as well as the European Rail Freight Association and the Union International Rail Route.</p> <p>At a rail freight conference in Brussels on Friday, a private sector rail train operator poured scorn on the strategy of some state railways to focus on cross-border alliances rather than invite competition at home.</p> <p>Matthias Raith, general manager of Rail4Chem, said: "That are like ageing boxers clinging together desperately because they know their careers are at an end."</p> <br />