Road-rail CT offers many intrinsic advantages  for the shipment of goods. However, rail’s share of the European market has diminished constantly during the past few decades for various reasons related to technical requirements though also to the organisation of this type of transport. Whereas its share of the market reached 20% in 1970 regarding freight transport, it declined to 10% in 2004. Consequently, the liberalisation of the railway sector can contribute, within the context of fair and regulated competition, to an increase in the market shares of both rail and road-rail CT, thus enabling the different players concerned to offer their customers the best quality at a more competitive price.

In this perspective, the European Union drew up new framework conditions from the early 90s by means of various Community legislative instruments. Thus, notably, Directive 91/440 relating to the development of Community railway undertakings had established the distinction between the infrastructure and the operation of the service. Two other Directives had also been adopted. Other Directives and Regulations have as their objective to create a uniform European rail market.

The European Commission therefore proposed two series of measures grouped within “railway packages”, respectively adopted in March 2001 and April 2004:


The First Railway Package

The First Railway Package made provision for the opening up for international freight services:

  • of the main lines (trans-European networks) on 15 March 2003 and
  • of the whole European network on 15 March 2008


The Second Railway Package

The Second Railway Package made provision for:

  • bringing forward the date of the opening up of the whole network for international freight services on 1 January 2007 (instead of 15 March 2008) and
  • the opening up of the whole network for international and national freight services on 1 January 2007

The Commission had announced the Second Railway Package in its White Paper published in September 2001. Entitled “European transport policy for 2010: time to decide”, it aimed, among other things, at the revitalisation of the railway sector and the construction of a legally and technically integrated European rail area.

With the regulations on the licences of the railway undertakings, security, and allocation of infrastructure and interoperability capacities, the liberalisation of the rail freight market is one of the main measures that were executed.

Several Member States did not wait for this decision and already opened their freight markets several years ago. Thus today there is effective competition between several railway undertakings in Germany, the United Kingdom, Austria, Sweden, the Netherlands, Italy, Poland, the Czech Republic, the Baltic Member States, and, since 1 April 2006, France.


The Third Railway Package

A Third Railway Package, presented on 3 March 2004 by the European Commission, was adopted on 19 December 2006 by the European Parliament. It deals with the opening up of transport of passengers, the certification of train drivers, and the rights and obligations of the travellers. The provision proposed by the Commission dealing with compensation in case of delays for the freight services has been rejected, the European Parliament and the Council having felt that it would be in conflict with the interests of the sector. Having highlighted the costs caused by the lack of punctuality on the part of rail for the entire transport chain, the UIRR has appealed to the Commission to follow up by all possible means on the issue of freight quality.


Finally, on the subject of freight, a communication on a “freight oriented network” is likely to be adopted by the Commission in 2007. It will present a plan of action to facilitate the development of a network oriented towards freight which could ultimately lead to the development of a dedicated freight network. It will focus on of the medium-term objectives, that is to say up to the period 2010-2015.

Related documents
Combined Transport and Rail Liberalisation: from theory to practice DE EN FR
UIRR statement of views on the second rail package DE EN FR
Freight freeways: opinion of the CT operators DE FR