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M7 double-decker train of NMBS, source: Bombardier Transportation

Experts advise EU to develop internal rail market

The group of European railway experts has prepared several recommendations to the European Commission to maintain the global leadership of the EU rail supply industry. All advice, in one way or another, provide a direction to develop and support the EU internal rail market. This will allow the European rail supply industry to become more competitive and meet the current challenges.

The railway experts delivered their recommendations in a special report addressed the entire rail sector, EU countries, the European Commission, European standardisation organisations and EU bodies. It covers 10 policy areas, including digitalisation, innovation, skills and training, internal market, standardisation, EU public procurement, EU supporting mechanisms, access to markets and finance for small and medium-sized enterprises, access to international procurement market and intellectual property rights.

Five key points

“As a strong internal market will enhance the rail supply industry competitiveness,” the European Commission quotes the report. Inter alia, the document emphasizes the importance of a swift implementation of the 4th railway package and the need to further promote the use of quality criteria in public procurement. The report also pays attention to a transformation of the European rail system. This recommendation suggests the implementation of innovations including the European railway traffic management system (ERTMS).

Moreover, the experts call for adopting the EU blueprint programme in order to address skills gaps in the rail sector. At the same time, the railway managers and officials should not forget about the deployment of climate-neutral, energy-efficient and user-oriented transport systems, especially railway and urban rail projects. In addition, the report supports the continuation and strengthening of EU actions for achieving a global level playing field.

Chinese challenge

At the end of this summer, Chinese rolling stock manufacturer CRRC Zhuzhou Locomotive, a subsidiary of CRRC, purchased Locomotives business unit of Vossloh Group, a Germany-based engineering company. If the acquisition is approved by the EU competition authorities, the Chinese producer will gain access to the European rail market. However, the European suppliers themselves face a lot of problems and restrictions on the Chinese market. This deal has already caused numerous discussions among rail professionals. As a possible solution, the Association of the European Rail Industry (UNIFE) proposed the European institutions to exclude Chinese suppliers from the European public procurement procedures.

Group of experts

Following a resolution of the European Parliament in 2016, which called for a strong and competitive EU rail supply industry (2015/2887(RSP)), the expert group bringing together small, medium and big companies, as well as associations representing the whole value chain (including railway operators and infrastructure managers) and EU countries drew up those recommendations.

The group is composed of 10 national authorities, 12 trade organisations or national associations representing different value chain manufacturers, 8 system manufacturing corporates (train builders), 2 innovation and technology clusters, and 23 equipment manufacturers (signalling, telecommunications, noise protection, fire protection, electronics, trucks, infrastructure and contractors). 10 out of the 45 members are small and medium-sized enterprises.

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Author: Mykola Zasiadko

Mykola Zasiadko is editor of online trade magazines RailTech.com and RailFreight.com.

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