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Council agrees its position on key rail proposals

Meeting on 14 March, transport ministers adopted the Council's position on the proposal giving new tasks to the European Railway Agency and on the Shift2Rail proposal

EU transport ministers meeting in the Council adopted a general approach on a proposal defining new tasks for the European Railway Agency (ERA). The proposed changes reflect the ERA's increased role in safety certification and vehicle authorisation. Among other things, the increased scope of ERA should help reduce administrative costs and speed up administrative procedures for railway undertakings in the EU.

The changes are part of the technical pillar of the 4th railway package, published by the Commission in January 2013. The technical pillar aims to remove remaining administrative and technical barriers to the creation of a single European rail market.

Ministers also adopted the Council's position on a proposal to establish the Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking. This public-private partnership will aim to develop, test and approve innovative technologies and solutions that help reduce life-cycle costs of the rail transport system, increase its capacity, improve the reliability of rail services and reduce environmental impact of rail travel.

The European Parliament is being consulted on the proposal, before a final decision is taken by the Council.

The Fourth Railway Package

The fourth railway package, published by the Commission in January 2013, is made up of 6 legislative proposals in 4 areas:

  • EU wide approval - Trains and rolling stock should be built and certified once for them to be able to run in the whole of the EU. There should be one single safety certificate.
  • A structure that works - Ensuring that the two functions of managing tracks and running trains are kept apart.
  • More access to the railway - Opening up domestic passenger railways to new entrants, to increase competition and efficiency
  • A skilled workforce - Ensuring that member states can better protect staff when public service contracts are transferred.

Other topics on the agenda

Ministers held a policy debate on a Commission communication on competitive and resource-efficient urban mobility. Discussions focused on sustainable mobility planning, and on the best way to coordinate and use funding mechanisms available at EU and national level.

The Council was also informed of latest developments on several ongoing legislative files, including the airport package, the proposal to amend the Regulation on the promotion of inland waterway transport, and the proposed directive on alternative fuels (Clean Power).

Several items were adopted without discussion:

  • European Investigation Order directive
  • Directive on the freezing and confiscation of proceeds of crime
  • Visa liberalisation for Moldova
  • EU tobacco directive

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