Freight News

Rail group slams ‘soft’ approach to reform

[ September 2, 2011   //   ]

The Rail Freight Group (RFG) said the UK Government had “gone soft” on separation of railway operations from infrastructure management in European Law, a move which it sees as essential if UK operators are to expand their operations on the continent.

RFG said that the Government had, in a briefing paper sent to the European Transport Council, the European Commission and the European Parliament contravened the “essential principles” that infrastructure managers should be totally separate in all ways from train operators as set out in the EU’s First Railway Package in 2001.

The UK itself has had full separation since privatisation, first under the illfated railtrack infrastrucutre company and latterly the quasi-nationalised Network Rail and this had long been held up as a model of rail liberalisation. “Other countries however have continued to be dogged by problems where co-ownership of trains and track has damaged competition,” RFG added.

RFG Chairman, Tony Berkeley, commented: “Full separation remains a legal requirement in the UK. Whereas the UK regulator is strong and independent, that is not so in many other EU Member States. UK companies seeking to operate in continental Europe often find their way is blocked by incumbent operators, and have no one to complain to. Why is UK Government not helping them to grow their business by supporting this recast?”

He called the briefing paper “a sad reversion to a little England mentality” that completely failed to take into account the international growth aspirations of many UK rail businesses. “They absolutely need the liberalisation proposed by the EP and the Commission to enable this to happen effectively.”