Image: CER

‘Hard Brexit’ will be challenging for European rail, says CER’s Lochman

‘Brexit’, the impending departure of the United Kingdom from the EU, ‘must not undermine the ongoing development’ of the Single European Rail Area. That’s the view of Libor Lochman, Executive Director of the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER), speaking at a special European Parliament session. 

The CER, one of Europe’s foremost and influential rail freight & passenger representative bodies, says that as a service with public relevance, railways are a network industry which operate in a heavily regulated environment. In this context, it believes that it is of ‘fundamental importance’ that legal certainty for the rail business is achieved in the relations between the EU and the UK.

Major issues

Mr Lochman was speaking at a parliamentary hearing organised by the European Parliament Committee on Transport and Tourism held to assess the impact of Brexit on rail and road business. Chaired by Karima Delli, other speakers included Eurotunnel CEO Jacques Gounon and the Rail Delivery Group’s Laura Wright. All agreed that a so-called ‘hard Brexit’ – which could see a messy split between the UK and EU, with no deal agreed – will throw up some major issues for the rail sector.

“At this stage of the negotiations, it is difficult to assess what the impact of Brexit will be.” said Lochman. “If Brexit will mean an abrupt withdrawal from the Union, with neither a post-Brexit agreement between the parties nor any other transitional arrangement in place, then I have no doubt that the impact on the rail sector will be challenging.”

Seamless border procedures

He highlighted five key priorities for rail to mitigate the risks:

  • Access must be guaranteed for UK operators to the EU market and for EU operators to the UK market on the basis of symmetrical conditions
  • Free movement of workers between the UK and EU should be kept as far as possible. Secondments and cross-border deployment of staff in the transport are particularly important
  • The harmonisation of technical rules and mutual recognition processes in the Single European Rail Area should continue on the path set by the Technical Pillar of the Fourth Railway Package, while at the same time taking into account the need for some flexibility in the application of its rules for non-EU members
  • A Common Travel Area for passengers and seamless border procedures for rail freight travelling between the UK and Ireland should be established
  • Appropriate technical, legal and financial arrangements in the field of EU research and innovation should be in place to allow UK operators, manufacturers and research institutions to contribute to EU research and innovation programmes.

“If negotiating parties can find an agreement on these five priorities, we believe that railways in the EU and UK can run competitive cross border passenger and freight services and continue to contribute to the delivery of the Single European Rail Area and all the benefits for customers that brings,” added Lochman.

Free movement

The CER’s most recent position statement on Brexit highlights the potential consequences on issues such as staff mobility, technical rules, intermodal competition, border crossing controls, research & innovation, and transitional agreements.

On staffing, the CER says free movement of people is critically important for helping rail organisations find the best talent, and that the UK and EU must ensure the industry has reciprocal access to sufficient numbers of workers. On the issue of border & crossing points, the CER points out that one in four containers arriving in British ports make their onward journey by rail, and that additional infrastructure may be needed to manage trains in depots’ bonded warehouses for longer periods to store goods. On a network that is one of the most intensively used in Europe, it adds, delays could have a ‘significant impact’ on domestic freight service.

The CER’s position paper is available here.

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Author: Simon Weedy

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

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‘Hard Brexit’ will be challenging for European rail, says CER’s Lochman | RailFreight.com