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Merci e ferrovia


Ieri a Bruxelles ho partecipato ad un workshop organizzato dalla Commissione europea sul quarto pacchetto ferroviario, alla presenza del Commissario europeo ai Trasporti Siim Kallas. Nel mio intervento ho sottolineato che in Europa la qualità del servizio ferroviario è insufficiente, nel trasporto passeggeri e merci, e che anche l’intermodalità continua a rallentare.
L’Unione europea deve fare di più per incoraggiare il trasporto merci e l’uso dei corridoi merci, che non sembrano ancora competitivi rispetto al trasporto su gomma. Soprattutto, se si vuole creare un mercato interno europeo delle ferrovie, è essenziale un accesso non discriminatorio alle infrastrutture ferroviarie, senza il quale non avremo mai uno spazio ferroviario integrato.
Servono finanziamenti e fiscalità adeguate alle infrastrutture, migliori condizioni per competere sul mercato ferroviario e un nuovo sistema che assicuri al mercato stesso un appropriato controllo. Questi obiettivi sono stati avanzati nella proposta della Commissione europea del 17 settembre 2010, accompagnati da una Comunicazione sullo sviluppo di un Spazio ferroviario unico europeo, ma non sono stati ancora raggiunti, nonostante il “recast ferroviario” assicuri maggiore competizione tra i gestori, controllo da parte di forti e indipendenti regolatori nazionali e la previsione della creazione di un network di regolatori a livello europeo.
Gli Stati membri non sono in condizione di aumentare il loro impegno finanziario, quindi bisogna stimolare l’efficienza del sistema ferroviario per fare di più con gli stessi importi o con meno, e ciò significa migliorare la governance del settore.

Il testo del mio intervento al Workshop:

I would like to thank the Commission for inviting me to this important workshop.

The trend in rail passenger transport has risen slightly since 2000. Rail share of total passenger transport was around 6%. In freight transport the rail share was slightly greater than 10%. These figures are proof of the need for improvement in the rail sector. What we need is to have adequate financing and charging for rail infrastructures, better conditions for competition on the railway market as well as new organisational reforms to ensure appropriate supervision of the market. These objectives were put forward in the European Commission proposal of 17 September 2010 accompanied by a Communication on development of a Single European Railway Area.

These goals have not yet been achieved, despite some important elements of the recast ensuring greater competition between rail operators, supervision by a strong and independent national regulator to ensure fair competition and the obligation to deal with complaints in a short period of time, the creation of a European network of national regulators and a rendez-vous clause for the creation of a European regulator. The new rules should also provide a solid basis for the financing of infrastructure contracts with a minimum term of five years. Now it’s up to Member States to guarantee the right level of financing

The very first question is: are we satisfied with the current functioning of the rail system? The answer is obviously no. The quality of service, both for passengers and freight users is insufficient and the modal share of rail continues to decline.

The EU must do more to encourage freight transport across Europe and encourage the use of freight corridors, but I have the impression that these corridors are not yet competitive or reliable compared to road traffic.

The second question relevant for our discussion is: what are the means at our disposal to improve the situation? Some parts of the industry believe that more public financing is the only solution. Let’s be realistic Member States are not in a position to increase their subsidies. So we need to stimulate the efficiency of the system to do more with the same amounts or even with less. This implies improving the governance of the sector.

The third question is: can we rely on Member States initiatives only or shall we act through EU legislation? For me the answer is definitively “yes” and I believe that this point of view is shared by most Members of the European Parliament. If we are serious about the creation of a single European railway area and want a level playing field for railway undertakings in Europe. The legal framework must be set at EU level. I hear some arguing that “there is no one size fits all solution” and that Member States should be free to decide which measures are the most adapted to their market. Of course, there are particularities in each Member States but I fear that this position is actually a way to oppose any change and let Member States continue to defend what they perceived as their national champion rather than the interests of passengers and freight users. We need to design an European model and not maintain 27 different railway

The EU must do more to encourage freight transport across Europe and encourage the use of freight corridors, but I have the impression that these corridors are not yet competitive or reliable compared to road traffic.

In addition, if we want to create a single market in railways, non-discriminatory access to rail infrastructure is essential; without it we cannot have an integrated rail area.

The goal is to create the airspace of the railway system where a train can access each station in Europe and circulate throughout the infrastructure. In order to do this, we will need investment in the interoperability of the network, and also of course in rolling stock, but I believe we need a real separation of the infrastructure manager from the operator. We cannot continue to tolerate cases of discrimination, and there are many in all countries.

On the separation issue, despite my strong opinion in favour of a separation between the infrastructure manager and the railway undertaking, we reached a good compromise that provides in the integrated companies transparency of financial flows from the infrastructure manager to the railway undertakings as well as the rendez-vous clause for the submission of a legislative proposal on the separation and opening of the domestic market for passengers by the end of 2012.

Many of the problems observed still relates to conflict of interest between infrastructure managers and incumbent. The latter do not deny that discrimination practices exist and must be addressed. And I am convinced that they need to be addressed through structural solutions which prevent them to occur rather than ex post interventions to correct them. As you know the Parliament insisted very much in the recast to reinforce national regulators and won this indispensable battle against Member States. But let’s be clear: if regulators’ intervention and judicial appeal are absolutely necessary and can constitute a deterrent in some cases, they will never be a complete solution: in many cases, the effects of discriminatory practices on the market are irretrievable.

The debates we had in parliament during the recast negotiation demonstrated that there is a clear consensus on the need to ensure financial transparency and avoid cross-subsidisation. In this respect we already managed to reinforce the monitoring powers of regulators but not to reinforce the prohibition to transfer infrastructure managers’ revenues to holdings and thereby to the incumbent. This leaves some possibilities of cross-financing and therefore I continue to plea in favour of a clear and complete prohibition of transfers (with of course the exception of dividends) which can be much more easily controlled by the regulators.

If we are serious about the measures preventing the absence of conflicts of interest and cross-subsidisation, then there should be no interference of the incumbent in the infrastructure manager decisions and no financial transfer between these entities. In such obligations are fulfilled, I don’t think there can be real added-value on the holding structure and I continue to consider that institutional separation is the simplest and most efficient solution. I can believe that such model, which is in place in nearly half of Member States and that other Member States are in the process to adopt, creates insurmountable operational problems as claimed by the supporters of the holding model. For instance, staff mobility, alignment of incentives, coordination can certainly be organised between institutionally separated entities.

Only a few weeks ago, the Commission lost the first round in the proceedings at the Court of Justice against German and Austrian railway infrastructure, at least with regard to the conclusion of the Advocate General, who confirmed that the holding system is compatible with the existing law.

These conclusions are a positive thing for me because I always insist on the fact that the final word is up to politics and not the Court. Imagine if in the aviation sector, the airline Lufhtansa, before planning its flights over the UK, should ask permission to make flights to British Airways or Air France in France…the air traffic would not be so competitive as it is now after opening the aviation market and thanks to the reforms of the Commission. I believe that now, more than ever, Commission and Parliament must move fast to achieve this goal and I am really confident the European Commission will fulfil its commitment!

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