EC ‘jeopardising’ rail transport of customs goods, says CER head

The European Commission (EC) is jeopardising the rail transport of goods that are subject to customs procedures with a ‘backwards step’ system developed for road and not rail. That’s the view of Libor Lochman, Executive Director of the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER), who is urging the EC to instead utilise the ETD system, a fully electronic and rail-focused customs transit procedure.

The ETD (Electronic Transit Document) procedure has been designed to supersede the existing paper-based rail transit procedure which, for the past few years, has been largely adopted by the rail sector and member states. Instead, the proposed system would allow for much more efficient operations.

Security risks

By ensuring compatibility with other systems of authorities who already use electronic rail data, it removes the need for extra data entry into another system. It will also reduce security risks due to the elimination of long stops at external borders.

Mr Lochman said: A rail-dedicated customs transit system is decisive for the efficiency and attractiveness of rail transport. Previous practice has demonstrated – for decades – how essential rail-dedicated customs procedures – such as ETD – are. The ETD is the best-fitting digital tool both for the rail sector and for the customs administrations and will pave the way for a fully computerised future for rail cargo transport. The non-implementation of the ETD procedure would inevitably lead to unbearably high costs for the companies and their customers, and consequently, to a modal shift to road.”

Step backwards

The New Computerised Transit System (NCTS), the system promoted by the European Commission, NCTS, cannot, adds the CER, be considered as a viable option for railways. Not only would it be disconnected from the available RailData database, but it will require numerous manual inputs, making the whole instrument equivalent to a step backwards, heavily hampering the rail business while offering no benefits to customs authorities.

Major delays

When tested five years ago, it caused high investment costs and a labour-intensive workflow – in addition to major delays in particular at departure – and demonstrated the incompatibility of NCTS with the rail sector’s needs.

As a result, it adds, the push for NCTS ‘goes completely against the EU objectives for a more sustainable transport system and increased role of railways in long-distance cargo transport. It is even more alarming given that the volumes of rail transport taking place under customs supervision in Europe are expected to grow further.’

Author: Simon Weedy

Simon is a journalist for - a dedicated online platform for all the news about the rail freight sector

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