European Parliament Seeks to Increase Rail Infrastructure Capacity

The Transport and Tourism Committee of the European Parliament has expressed support for enhanced coordination of railway infrastructure capacity at the EU level, citing the need to mitigate delays, enhance reliability, and facilitate a modal shift to rail. This move comes as MEPs adopted their stance on new regulations governing the planning and allocation of railway infrastructure capacity within the EU.

The primary objective of these regulations is to optimise the utilisation of rail tracks, thereby improving punctuality and reliability and promoting the use of rail as an energy-efficient mode of transport to reduce transport-related emissions and energy consumption.

A key aspect of the committee’s position involves granting more authority to the European Network of Infrastructure Managers (ENIM) to coordinate cross-border capacity and traffic, addressing issues such as uncoordinated maintenance works and lack of cooperation between different infrastructure managers, which currently lead to congestion and delays at borders.

Additionally, the committee has proposed dividing railway infrastructure capacity planning into strategic planning (every five years), scheduling (annually), and adaptation while recommending the establishment of a European Railway Platform comprising railway undertakings. This platform would incorporate the perspectives of operators, ports, and rail-related service owners in capacity planning and distribution.

MEPs also expressed concern over the decline of the EU railway network by over 12,000 km between 1990 and 2021, hindering the EU’s shift-to-rail objective. In response, they are advocating for EU countries to commit to preventing the degradation of rail infrastructure and ensuring adequate, stable, and timely funding through at least five-year investment agreements between governments and infrastructure managers.

Furthermore, the committee highlighted the potential of automation and digital tools to expedite traffic management, enhance effectiveness, and reduce bureaucracy. They have proposed the deployment of various digital tools, such as capacity plans display and digital incident reporting, by mid-2025 to the end of 2030, with coordination tasks entrusted to the European Railway Agency.

In a statement, EP rapporteur Tilly Metz emphasised the urgent need for a modal shift to rail to decarbonise the European transport sector and underscored the significance of the proposed rules in facilitating this transition and ensuring optimal rail track utilisation. Metz also emphasised the importance of stakeholder consultation and ambitious digitalisation targets, along with proposing new tasks for the European Railway Agency and an augmented budget.

The committee’s position on the new EU rules regarding the use of railway infrastructure capacity received unanimous support with 30 votes in favour. The next step involves presenting the position for a vote at an upcoming plenary session, which will constitute Parliament’s stance at the first reading. Following the European elections in June, the file will be overseen by the new Parliament.

This legislative proposal forms part of a broader initiative aimed at greening EU freight transport. Despite rail transport accounting for a modest percentage of passenger and freight transport between EU countries, it contributes minimally to greenhouse gas emissions from EU transport, highlighting its potential as a sustainable mode of transport.