What does the European TEN-T revision mean for rail?
The Transport and Tourism Committee of the European Parliament unanimously adopted its position regarding the revision of the TEN-T regulations last week. What has been decided in this revision, and what does it mean for European railways?
The Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) is a network of roads, railways, inland waterways, airports, and seaports designed to improve transport infrastructure and connectivity across the European Union. The network was established in 1996 and has been updated and expanded since, with the current policy and corresponding map with lines dating from 2013. Due for an update, the European Commission made an initial legislative proposal for a revised regulation in December 2021, with changes addressing missing links, and to support the transition to a cleaner, greener and smarter mobility. Also, the changed geopolitical situation due to Russia’s invasion in Ukraine leaves its mark, leading the European Commission to amend its proposal in July 2022.
After the Commission makes a proposal, it is up to the European Parliament to review it and make amendments. As rapporteurs, a member of the European Parliament made responsible for handling a legislative proposal drawn up by the European Commission, the Austrian Barbara Thaler (European People’s Party) and the French Dominique Riquet (Renew Europe) went to work, appointed by the European Parliament Transport Committee.
Current TEN-T projects range from Rail Baltica, connecting Helsinki and Warsaw, to Brenner Base Tunnel, linking Austria and Italy, or the Lisbon–Madrid high-speed rail line.
An intermediate deadline, stricter on delays
The TEN-T network consists of two layers. The core network includes all parts of the overall network that are strategically important for achieving European transport objectives. The regulation established provisions for the core network is to be completed by 2030. The comprehensive network as the second layer connects all regions of the EU to the core network, and the provision for this should be completed by 2050.
Initially, in the EU this was translated into nine core network corridors in the TEN-T network, however there are also eleven rail freight corridors established in another regulation, aimed at strengthening competitive freight. With the TEN-T revision, these two types will be integrated into nine European Transport Corridors. For rail, this is realised in nine European Transport Corridors, among which for example the Rhine-Alpine corridor running from key North Sea ports of Belgium and the Netherlands to the Mediterranean port of Genoa. The TEN-T revision also adds a new layer: the Extended Core Network, the development of which should be completed by 2040.
To incentivise a quick roll-out of these projects, MEPs support the introduction of an intermediary deadline of 2040. In the event of a significant delay, MEPs suggest the Commission should immediately launch an infringement procedure and reduce or terminate funding.
In the revision, there are also amendments adding new railway sections to the network. For example, Amsterdam to Bremen in Germany via Groningen in the Northeast of the Netherlands will be added to the extended core network. In the Netherlands, this was welcomed with open arms. There have long been plans for the so-called Lelylijn, a new railway from Amsterdam to Groningen via various cities in Friesland. Now that it will be on the European transportation map, it may be eligible for European funding as the condition is met that it is part of an international link. The section of rail between Groningen and Bremen is currently part of the comprehensive network, only Bremen-Oldenburg is already part of the core network.
Some lines that already were part of the Core Network will be amended to upgraded to high-speed, such as Stockholm – Oslo in Norway defined as 200 km/h, and rail passengers lines Milano –Trevigilio and Treviglio –Verona in Italy, with a speed of 250 km/h. A new map of the revised TEN-T network has not yet been pulbished
Connection with Ukraine and Moldova included, Russia shelved
One of the main changes of the revision are the extension of four of the European Transport Corridors to Moldova and Ukraine. In particular, it proposes to extend the North Sea – Baltic Sea corridor through Lviv and Kyiv to Mariupol. The Baltic Sea – Black Sea – Aegean Sea corridor to would be extended to Odessa via Lviv and Chisinau. The Baltic Sea – Adriatic Sea and Rhine-Danube corridors will be extended as far as Lviv. B crossings between the EU and Russia and Belarus are no longer part of the Core Network but are included in the Comprehensive Network, and therefore their implementation is delayed from 2030 to 2050.
The revision also implies a reduction in the length of the Mediterranean Corridor. Until now, it reached the Ukrainian border via Hungary. In the new maps defined by the EU it ends in Zagreb (Croatia).
Member States with a track gauge network which differs from the European standard gauge (1435mm) such as countries in Eastern Europe which share the same gauge as Russia, and Spain and Portugal with Iberian gauge, should assess the migration of existing lines of the European Transport Corridors. Ireland is excepted from this requirement, due to its insular situation.
Speed up border crossings
With the goal to shift more traffic to rail, international freight plays an important role. However, border crossings currently form a bottleneck. Co-rapporteur Barbara Thaler: “Everybody is talking about shifting transport to rail. However, while cars, trucks or planes can cross EU borders without any problems, trains, especially cargo ones, are forced to stop at borders, sometimes for hours, to adapt to the requirements of different member states. That is why it is particularly important to ensure that rail border crossings should take no more than 15 minutes, and there should also be slots for freight trains allocated across borders. It is ambitious, but necessary if we want to succeed in shifting traffic from road to rail.”
To improve goods traffic via rail, on double track lines, at least 50 per cent of the train paths for freight trains, and not less than two train paths per hour and direction, should be able to be allocated to freight trains with a length of at least 740 metres, it is stated in the revision. On single track lines, this should be at least one train path per two hours and direction.
In the revision, also stronger synergies between infrastructure planning and the operation of transport services are outlined. For the Core network, the goal of a fully electrified railway, running with at least 160 km/h passenger and 100 km/h cargo trains is written out.
Also increasing the resilience of the TEN-T network is included in the regulation with the revision. This relates to adapting infrastructure in face of climate change and more extreme weather.
By the 31st of December 2025, Member States shall carry out an assessment to identify, on their core and comprehensive network, all existing transport critical infrastructures, including in respect of all modes, and assess their resilience to climate change, through a climate and environmental vulnerability test and risk assessment. By the 1st of December 2029, Member States have to adopt all the adaptation measures.
Governing the TEN-T network
The revision proposal has a more comprehensive approach when it comes to governing the TEN-T network. The Transport Committee proposed that the corridor coordinators have more power when it comes to implementing infrastructure projects. Additionally, it asked for the implementation of a single EU language for operations and changes in the coordination of the traffic management system and digital capacity management.
“Europe is starting to lag behind our international competitors, and the Union is suffering from too little investment and a lack of political will from the member states. As such, Parliament will make sure that we have a TEN-T regulation which works and delivers for our businesses and citizens”, says Co-rapporteur Dominique Riquet.
Therefore, in the objectives of the TEN-T regulation, it is added that efficiency should be improved by common European technical and operational rules and standards, technical equipment requirements and staff certification, such as the use of a single EU-wide language for cross-border rail transport. Also, ensuring a common European digital and interoperable systems for passengers information and ticketing is added to the objectives.
Industry association CER sees three parts of the revision as problematic. Specifically, the association underlined that the costs of using a single operation language would be enormous and result in disturbed competition with other transport modes while also increasing safety risks. Moreover, it says that the traffic management system should remain in the hands of each Infrastructure Manager, while digital capacity management should not be allocated to ERA since this allocation would not necessarily mean simplified capacity allocation processes.
At the same time, the proposal that the EU Commission could intervene and defund infrastructure projects in case of delays is deemed risky by CER since it could result in more delays, especially for large and complex projects, the association states.