INNOTRANS: European Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas outlined his ‘dream’ of a competitive pan-European rail network in his keynote address at the InnoTrans 2010 opening ceremony on Tuesday morning. Noting that ‘railways are essential to the competitiveness of the European economy’, he suggested that by 2050, the single European rail market should be handling more than 50% of all freight moving more than 300 km and the bulk of long-distance passenger traffic in the 400 to 1 000 km range.

Commuter and regional services ‘should be efficient, attractive and reasonably priced’. Kallas plans a major review of European policy, starting with the recast of the First Railway Package, and he said that by 2012 the Commission would complete legislation to open up the domestic passenger market and simplify the acceptance process for new rolling stock. Other changes will strengthen independent regulation and address railway finances, to ensure greater transparency.

Noting that the rail sector is ‘currently very fragmented’, the Commissioner said he wanted to see the emergence of more pan-European railway operators and infrastructure managers freed from state control. He raised the prospect of further liberalisation and a reduction in bureaucracy in order to encourage private-sector investment in rail infrastructure projects.

During the following debate between industry leaders and representatives from the German rail sector, DB AG Chairman Dr Rüdiger Grube explained that the national railway was looking to become a truly pan-European operator as Kallas envisaged. He felt that this was being achieved in the freight market, but there was still a long way to go in the passenger business, where liberalisation is still at an early stage. He insisted that acquisition of Arriva was ‘not a cheap deal, but a strategic decision’, adding that the company would form ‘our platform for European growth’.

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