IN THE VIEW of Thomas Barrett, Adviser in the Directorate for Lending Operations at the European Investment Bank, Europe’s railways have done well in loans or grants from the EIB in the last 10 years. Speaking at AiC Worldwide’s EuroRail Congress in Paris on January 26 (p141), Barrett noted that ECU9·5bn of finance had gone to railways in 13 countries since 1990. Rail projects benefiting from EIB finance range from Spanish National Railways’ AVE line to Danish State Railways’ link across the Great Belt and the Tagus crossing in Lisboa.

Some of the funds were destined for the Trans-European Network projects endorsed by European transport ministers in December 1994. Barrett said a second programme of TENs is now in prospect, with details expected in a Transport Priorities White Paper that European Transport Commissioner Neil Kinnock may issue in July. Plans could also emerge at an informal EU transport ministers meeting in Dortmund on April 23-24. Just how concerned Kinnock is about the need for change on Europe’s railways came over when he spoke in the French National Assembly before Christmas, stressing how badly rail had lost market share in the last 30 years.

TEN proposals in the second programme are likely to include better links with Eastern Europe, but Barrett suggested that rail will not be such a major beneficiary as in the first round. ’Other modes have not stood still while rail makes up its mind what to do’, he warned. Taking US railroads as an example, he pointed out that deregulation in Europe may well further reduce earnings per tonne-km. It was implicit that Europe’s railways must improve their performance if they wish to qualify for future funding.