Ministerial Declaration and Sector Statement concerning international rail freight 30/06/16

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The Netherlands' Council Presidency, understanding the importance of international rail freight from the perspective of Europe's welfare, initiated the development and issuance of the Ministerial Declaration titled Rail Freight Corridors to boost international rail freight by the Council of (Transport) Ministers.  The Declaration was published on 21 June 2016 at the European Commission's TEN-T Days Conference in Rotterdam, and its was accompanied by the Sector Statement titled Boosting International Rail Freight, which was adopted a month earlier - on 20 May 2016 - by 11 rail freight stakeholder organisations, which included UIRR.

The ministries of transport of EU Member States, whose representatives make up the Executive Boards of Rail Freight Corridors, attested to their understanding of the problems of international rail freight in the Declaration, while also expressing the urgent need for rail freight transport to play a key role in the transport model of the future.

In order to achieve this, the Ministers saw - among others - the need for

  • Increased market orientation
  • Removal of infrastructure and operational bottlenecks
  • Need to offer coordinated infrastructure capacity
  • Boosting of the principles of transparency and non-discrimination
  • Harmonised Information and Communication Technology Infrastructure
  • Annual conference of RFC Executive Boards to discuss strategic issues
  • Annual rail freight conference focused on service performance and needs of end customers
  • Opening of the Advisory Group structure to interested railway customers
  • Development of a set of harmonised RFC Key Performance Indicators
  • Adapting financing schemes at EU level to resolve low cost infrastructure bottlenecks
  • Take measures to improve the coordination of works
  • Support to the redesign of the timetabling and capacity allocation process
  • Appropriate and fair allocation of (infrastructure) capacity between passenger and freight transport

Finally, the Ministers agreed to regularly monitor the effects of the Declaration, in particular in the upcoming two years.

The preceding Sector Statement contained a number of resonating points, such as - among others - the need to:

  • Increasing the competitiveness of international rail freight
  • Reducing the response time to planning request
  • Reducing transit times and disruptions
  • Improving reliability (by keeping  delays to a minimum)
  • Providing tracking and tracing for shippers to be able to monitor the status of their goods
  • Developing a comparable set of KPIs with the involvement of stakeholders to monitor quality of service
  • Working towards to common ICT architecture
  • Organising an annual RFC strategy meeting at each corridor
  • Strengthening the dialogue and cooperation within the advisory groups
  • Holding an annual meeting of all RAGs, TAGs and interested end-customers
  • Compiling and annually updating a single list of important operational issues
  • Coordinating maintenance and construction works 24 months before timetable change
  • Identifying, regularly updating and publishing a list of main infrastructure bottlenecks on each corridor
  • Harmonisation of operational procedures of RFCs

While neither the Ministerial Declaration nor the Sector Statement may be considered all encompassing when it comes to all the necessary measures needed to improve the performance of international rail freight (see applicable UIRR position papers here and here), they may deliver much needed improvements to the operating conditions of international rail freight.

Since 84% of the activities of UIRR CT Operator Members were along cross-border relations in 2015, UIRR will continue to follow the fate of these two documents closely over the coming years.

Related documents
Sector statement EN
Ministerial Declaration EN