Former Austrian Chancellor,Kern Proposes #EU Rail Reform to Achieve Climate Protection

Former Austrian Cancellor Proposes EU Rail Reform to Achieve Climate Protection

–Railway traffic in the allotment
Austria’s former chancellor Kern wants to free Europe’s freight railways from the national corsets

-Patchwork: There are many problems in European freight transport, for example locomotives have to be changed at the border crossing. dpa

According to the former Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern, the Corona crisis emphasized that rail freight transport is systemically important for Europe.

“Cross-border goods transport by truck has temporarily collapsed due to border closings, kilometers of traffic jams and strict quarantine regulations for the drivers.

Freight trains, on the other hand, ran smoothly throughout Europe, ”said the former CEO of the Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB) at F.A.Z. ,affirming that anyone who wanted to enter stable value chains had to take the railways into account.

It is good and right that the EU is discussing aid to rail against the background of the pandemic. “Without a European transport policy for a strong rail, we will not be able to achieve the turnaround in traffic and we will not achieve the climate goals.”

Kern complains that there are “two worlds” in European rail policy. The EU Commission often sees private competitors and national rail policy as “their monopoly”. In Germany, for example, half of the rail freight transport services are provided by private companies such as Hamburg-based VTG AG.

“Less ideology and more pragmatism would help on both sides.”

He very much hoped that Germany would use its six-year EU Council Presidency beginning in July to “strengthen the railways in Europe and harmonize the rail network”.

The European freight corridors urgently need to be expanded and a nationwide network for 740-meter trains introduced.

“The central transport axes are completely overloaded”: Christian Kern calls for the expansion of the European freight transport corridors.

He wants to remedy the situation through supranationally managed corridors. This is the only way to connect the major European economic centers in a way that makes sense in terms of rail technology.

“That has to be managed centrally and taken out of the hands of the national railways.” That would have prevented such an approach before, says Kern. But that was no reason not to try again.

“It cannot be that everyone cultivates his allotment garden.” He spoke from experience and knew that “as a train manager, he had a different view”. Today he can get excited about the “enormous structural conservatism of the corporations”.

Elsewhere, the regulatory patchwork Europe is also hampering rail. Not only that locomotives have to be changed at the border crossing. “It is also not understandable that English is the language of communication in all economic sectors, only not by rail.” There, every train driver had to prove knowledge of the respective national language. “This is downright grotesque.”

Despite all hope of Merkel’s EU presidency, Kern is taking a critical view of German rail policy. Basic problems are not solved. Low prices, for example due to the lower VAT, are of little use if the trains are already overcrowded during rush hours. Trains would have to run more often, the frequencies would have to be increased. To do this, more needs to be invested in modern train control technology. If the wagons were used more often, this would mean increased maintenance for rails and trains. The railways also had to be exempted from the fee for using the train path. “In the end, you will have to redistribute money in the transport sector.”

To do this, he does not want to burden the state budget, but the other modes of transport: “If you do not want to burden taxpayers, it will be necessary for truck and air traffic to bear the costs it incurs to a greater extent.”

Kern also has a target for this ready: 180 euros per tonne of CO2 emissions. This is how big, calculated in euros, the disadvantage of the “green” train compared to trucks and planes, which do not have to worry about the external costs they cause.

In Germany, the cabinet had just decided that the emission of one ton of CO2 in the transport and buildings sectors should be charged with 25 euros from 2021. The state-prescribed CO2 price would gradually rise to 55 euros by 2025. The resulting income is to be used to lower the levy to promote the expansion of green electricity and to increase the commuter allowance.

Even after this calculation there is still a difference of 125 euros. Kern, who has left Austrian railways but continues to be an adviser to the industry and has supervisory board mandates, nevertheless praised the EU Commission’s proposal for a green deal. Greening motivates the economy to innovate.

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