Europe’s railways could be set for a shake-up if plans to increase competition on the continent’s networks are accepted by EU leaders and MEPs.
But the European Commission has watered down its initial proposals to end state-run monopolies such as France’s SNCF.
Those state holding groups, such as Germany’s Deutsche Bahn, that oversee infrastructure, cargo and passenger services may remain.
The compromise comes with a condition: the groups must separate their financial and managerial operations.
European Commissioner for Transport Siim Kallas said the move to restructure Europe’s railway market would “encourage innovation and the provision of better services.”
“Rail will be able to grow again to the benefit of citizens, business and the environment. Or we can take the other track. We can accept an irreversible slide down the slippery slope to a Europe where railways are a luxury toy for a few rich countries and are unaffordable for most in the face of scarce public money.”
Monika Heiming of the European Infrastructure Managers welcomed the proposals, saying it would give her members “more independence and greater responsibility.”
Gianni Tabbone, a spokesman for a Belgian transport consumer group, pointed to similar domestic reforms.
He said that it had led to a “poorer level of service, communication and ultimately decision-making.”
Yet the European Commission argues boosting the competition on the EU’s railways will save money for governments and passengers alike.