The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) held a public hearing on the 4th Railway package in Brussels on 24 April 2013

As reported by Polis earlier this year, the European Commission approved on January 30 this year the Fourth Railway package. The package of measures aims at reforming the rail transport sector in four key areas. On 19 March 2013, the European Parliament’s Committee on Transport and Tourism (TRAN) officially appointed the rapporteurs who will be leading the discussions on all aspects of the 4th Railway Package. The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) held on its turn a public hearing on 24 April with high-level representatives from rail stakeholders such as: the European Railway Agency (ERA), the Association of the European Rail Industry (UNIFE), the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER), the European Passenger Federation (EPF), the European Rail Infrastructure Managers (EIM), the European Rail Freight Association (ERFA) and the European Transport Workers' Federation (ETF). A representative from DG MOVE of the European Commission was also invited to listen to the debate and make general concluding remarks. The discussion was divided in two parts – the first one addressing the technical aspects which will be reformed with the package, and the second one looking at the governance dimension.

One of the most controversial of all proposals made in the package is the issue of institutional separation between infrastructure managers and railway undertakings. Opinions on this subject vary with some fully upholding the creation of “Chinese walls” between infrastructure managers (IMs) and transport operators, while others seeing this as detrimental to the development of rail services in some countries.

A proposal in the package of interest to local authorities relates to the opening of the market for domestic passenger transport services by rail to more competition. To achieve this, the Commission proposes mandatory tendering of all public service rail contracts above certain minimum threshold.

The programme of the public hearing can be found here.

Polis summary note on the 4th railway package is available here.