User-friendly EU transport system requires efficient railway services

Rail has a key role to play in Europe's future transport needs, says Merja Kyllönen.

By Merja Kyllönen

06 Nov 2014

Rail transport is something the European parliament should focus on. It is environmentally friendly, efficient and has good capacity. However, the completion of the single European railway area will not be easy. As a former Finnish transport minister, I am familiar with the fourth railway package and the legislative challenges the EU's railway package presents for member states.

I completely agree with the goal of the commission. We need to ensure the competitiveness of EU transport in the long term, while dealing with expected growth, fuel security and decarbonisation. Rail plays a central part in meeting the challenges of reducing oil dependency and cutting down greenhouse gases. Rail has much potential. The modal share of rail transport in passenger traffic in Europe is just six per cent approximately and has remained stable. We have much work ahead of us in ensuring we have efficient and attractive services that are long awaited.

Nobody is saying the negotiations will be easy. It is clear we have difficult negotiations ahead of us - the devil is in the detail. I hope that we are going to achieve results during this legislature. We need an outcome that stands the test of time, not just another package of EU legislation.

"We need an outcome that stands the test of time, not just another package of EU legislation"

This package is about both infrastructure and the market. It will have an effect on safety, railway workers and on the division of responsibilities between the operators and providers of infrastructure. And of course member states all have their own national interests. I see the aims of the package as a positive step forward, not a threat. However, there is much work ahead of us. With interoperability and multimodal ticketing as part of the fourth railway package, this is in my view one of the most important regulation schemes in this legislature. At the same time, I already aspire to a more ambitious vision for the European transport system.

The main target of this package is to improve the attractiveness of rail in Europe as opposed to other means of transport and ensure it better serves the people of Europe. Our journeys often comprise of various modes of transport. This is equally applicable to freight. Therefore interoperability, not just in rail, but through all transport modes, is the basis of a more user-friendly transport system. Data and information, as well new services based on mobile technology, will play an essential role in connecting different modes.

If we are eager to make public transport more attractive, whether on short or long distances, we must improve the entire travel chain - journey planning, ticket purchase, providing real-time information for passengers and providing solutions at the neighbourhood level. Then we could finally talk about a single European transport area. Quite ambitious, I know, but I believe we are not far from a holistic system becoming a reality - technology is making us take a leap forward in the transport sector as a whole. Making European railway systems more efficient and attractive is a major part of this puzzle.


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