For the past year, EPF has been co-chairing the International Rail Passenger (IRP) Transport Platform’s ‘mirror group’ which consists of representatives of railway undertakings (CER/ALLRAIL/UIC/CIT), infrastructure managers (EIM/CER/UIC), railway suppliers (UNIFE), passenger and consumers’ organisations (EPF/BEUC), travel companies and distributors (EU Travel Tech/ALLRAIL/ECTAA) – who are committed to developing a joint action plan/agenda to support international rail passenger services as part of the EU Green Deal.

Following intense work, the IRP stakeholders issued a collective statement on international rail passenger services end of March, reflecting commitments and needs from the sector to realise efficient international rail passenger services. The Sector Mirror Group Co-Chairs – Alberto Mazzola for CER and Christopher Irwin for EPF – stressed that by providing services tailored to the needs of customers, creating good quality infrastructure and capacity, and investing to make railways more competitive, international passenger rail can be the preferred mode of transport.

In the meantime, the Platform’s published report ‘Better rail connections for European passengers’ was discussed in the Transport Council on June 3. The conclusions of the meeting can be found here. There was a welcome consensus on some significant points:

  • acknowledging that rail must become more attractive to achieve a modal shift,
  • welcoming the creation of, and the practical steps taken by, the Platform for International Railway Passenger Transport,
  • recognising the importance of a continuous dialogue between public authorities, relevant stakeholders, employers, workers, and rail transport users to ensure that everyone enjoys the benefits of rail transport,
  • encouraging further development of rail passenger transport by, amongst other things,  focusing on passenger experience, fair competition, comprehensive route planning and ticketing offered by railway undertakings and third-party ticket vendors, and direct links with regional, local and urban transport,
  • underlining the need for systemic integration with other transport modes,
  • looking forward to revision of the interpretative guidelines concerning Regulation (EC) No 1370/2007 so that Member States may consider the use of public service contracts for international rail passenger services,
  • underlining the importance of a coherent TEN-T policy with projects that foster development of high-speed and international services for rail passenger transport between the main urban hubs,
  • underlining the case for coordinated EU investment in both infrastructure in rolling stock procurement,
  • calling on the EC to study eventual EU-level schemes to support rail operators in a non-discriminatory manner and noting, having regard to the specificities of the rail sector, the Commission’s intention to review the rules for granting state aid.