Steer report helps European Commission develop action plan to boost long-distance and cross border passenger rail.

On 14th December, the European Commission published its Action Plan to boost long-distance and cross-border passenger rail. The Plan comprises a detailed list of initiatives building on the Commission’s Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy. 

The Steer report on ‘Long-distance cross-border passenger rail services, which identified a range of potential measures to develop these services, enabled the development of the Action Plan. The comprehensive report of 476 pages is now available on the Commission’s website. The Steer exercise included wide-ranging stakeholder engagement. Learn more about the study.

The Commission’s Action Plan is composed of 10 main actions:

  1. Better implementation of the Union rail acquis and accelerated interoperability.
  2. A strengthened infrastructure for passenger rail.
  3. Sufficient rolling stock availability.
  4. Bringing train drivers and railway staff training and certification in line with future needs.
  5. A more efficient use of the networks.
  6. Appropriate pricing for track access.
  7. User-friendly ticketing and access to the rail system.
  8. A level playing field with other transport modes.
  9. Public Service Obligations to promote sustainable cross-border and/or multimodal collective transport.
  10. Empowering youth.

The Commission’s Action Plan clearly aligns with aspirations expressed in our stakeholder engagement. For example, the need for actions to ensure a level playing field between rail and other modes of transport came back as a priority in Steer’s stakeholder engagements. This action is composed of the following Sub-actions:

  1. ‘To Work with Parliament and Council to facilitate a swift adoption of the ‘Fit-for-55 package’ proposals, including carbon pricing and emissions trading in transport modes’.
  2. ‘To assess the need for an EU-wide VAT exemption for international train services.
  3. ‘To support and promote air-rail multimodal journeys on routes where the suitable infrastructure is in place to deliver such services and assess regulatory options to facilitate such multimodal services’ are expected to receive strong support from the rail industry.

The Sub-Action to ‘actively promote pilot projects to explore whether a reduction of track access charges to direct costs levels could better support the set-up of cross-border services’ is aiming to address the level of track access as an obstacle to the further development of cross-border long distance transport.

The Plan also contains sub-actions that will undoubtedly raise much debate in the industry regarding developing the details, such as the sub-action to ‘address the issue of scrapping of existing rolling stock.

Encouragingly, the Action Plan finishes with a call from the European Commission to launch Pilot Projects in 2022 to test key routes with a large potential to attract passengers to train services. It also proposed to implement measures identified in this action plan and explicitly refers to quicker city-to-city connections using new approaches such as integrated timetabling, support for rolling stock, or PSOs for cross-border connections.

Steer is committed to contributing to the achievement of the Commission’s Green Deal and is available to support its clients on pilots that meet the Commission’s aspirations.

Please contact Karen Letten and Jonathan Tong for more information or active support.


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