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The Trans-European Core Network

Submitted by on 28 Mar 2013 – 14:49

Dr. Anton Hofreiter, MdB, Chairman of the Bundestag Committee on Transport, Building and Urban Development

Building a Trans-European core network (TEN-V), which is comprised of roads, railways, waterways, ports, airports, navigation aids, intermodal freight terminals, and product pipelines, together with the services necessary for the operation of these infrastructures, is essential  for the development of a climate-friendly and sustainable transportation system for both people and freight throughout the European Union. To this end, the European Commission developed guidelines in 1996 for the development of a Trans-European railway network. The Commission has continued to revise and expand these guidelines over time. Nevertheless, the overall assessment for the last fifteen years of work on this issue is not so positive. The willingness of the member states to co-ordinate with one another as well as their determination to implement the necessary measures has not been adequate to accomplish the goal of a Trans-European rail network. The national interests of the individual member states have persistently undermined the goal of a unified European rail network. As a result, the connections across national borders create traffic bottlenecks for both passenger and cargo trains across the entire European transportation system.

European transportation providers are also fragmented. The varying transportation system operators, the different rules and norms of the varying systems, and lack of interoperability between the safety systems within the individual member countries further fracture transportation in Europe. Only last year, the German federal government withdrew its European co-operation for these environmentally friendly railways. The introduction of the ERTMS (European Rail Traffic Management System) as a unified European control system to harmonize the transfer of information between trains and railways on Corridor A between Rotterdam and Genua will most likely not be fully operational by the 2015 deadline. Corridor A is the most important in Europe and alone handles approximately 50 percent of the of the total north-south freight movement. The responsibility for this deadline slip lies solely on the individual member states. However, Brussels has also failed the development of the European core network by allowing the European Train Control System (ECTS) authorizations of rolling stock and railways to be country specific. As a result, the goal of a secure trans-boundary rail transportation network and a simplified approval of trains travelling over national borders cannot be fulfilled. The 20 different train operators in Europe are implementing ERTMS in differing and incompatible segments. This segmentation will not result in a freely accessible and competitive transportation network for Europe.

What can we learn from this experience? The current independent attempts of the individual member countries within Europe to develop cross-border transportation projects demonstrate that these member countries alone are not capable of developing a European transportation network. That would be like asking the individual cities and counties within a country to develop a national transportation system. The regional needs of the individual cities and counties would always be the main priority, not the national needs. A resource efficient core transportation network for Europe is vital for personal and freight mobility. Europe’s core network should be developed in the most environmentally and socially equitable means possible and should also be safe and reliable. Additionally, all transportation providers must develop sustainable vital corridors that make up the European core transportation network. Only then will the skeptics realize that new highways and streets are not an acceptable means to meet future transportation demand.

As a result of the debt ceiling, countries today must conduct cost-use studies to determine which transportation projects to finance. Smaller, easier to build projects with high usage rates for the integration of the European transportation network should be built before the larger projects with high costs and long delivery schedules are built. In order to do this effectively, experts muss first list the largest bottlenecks and other problem areas in the European freight rail network. Such an analysis is currently necessary to find the weak points in the system and improve overall capacity. Developing smaller projects that help ameliorate large bottlenecks is far better than always attempting to develop large projects without full financing such as Fehmanbeltquerung. Of greatest importance is the balance between transportation usage rates, financial feasibility, and transportation connectivity.