Answered in Dáil
*To ask the Minister for Transport if he will report to Dáil Éireann on the issues involved and the possible impact of the proposed EU First Railway Package on rail transport here; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Thomas P. Broughan.
* For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 8th July, 2008.
Ref No: 27176/08
Answered by the Minister for Transport
The First Railway Package was published in the Official Journal in March 2001 and is part of a broader package of proposals aimed at revitalising the rail sector. The Railway Package comprises three directives:
Directive 2001/12 amending Directive 91/440/EC on the development of the Community's railways,
Directive 2001/13 amending Directive 95/18/EC on the licensing of railway undertakings,
Directive 2001/14, replacing Directive 95/19/EC, on the allocation of railway infrastructure capacity and the levying of charges for the use of the railway infrastructure and safety certification.
Broadly speaking, these Directives opened up the rail freight market further by requiring Member States to grant access to what is defined as the Trans-European Rail freight network (a series of lines across the EU which includes the Cork-Dublin-Belfast-Larne line) to any railway company wishing to provide international freight services. The Directives also sought to ensure that all railway companies are treated in a fair and equitable manner and provide for the efficient and competitive use of infrastructure.
The Directives contained in the First Railway Package, with the exception of Article 6 of Directive 2001/14, have been fully transposed into national legislation through Statutory Instruments, S.I. No. 536 of 2003 European Communities (Access to Railway Infrastructure) Regulations 2003 transposing Directive 2001/12/EC, S.I. No. 537 of 2003, European Communities (Licensing of Railway Undertakings) Regulations 2003 transposing Directive 2001/13/EC and S.I. No. 643 of 2004, European Communities European Communities (Allocation of Railway Infrastructure Capacity and the levying of Charges for the use of Railway Infrastructure and Safety Certification) Regulations 2004 transposing Directive 2001/14/EC.
Article 6 of Directive 2001/14 deals with incentives to reduce the cost of providing railway infrastructure and the level of charges for access by third parties to the railway. The most appropriate mechanism, permitted by the Directive, for doing this, is a contract between a competent authority and the infrastructure manager. In an Irish context, primary legislation is required to facilitate this. It is proposed that appropriate legislation will be introduced at the earliest opportunity. The Commission was advised of this position at the time of the transposition of the Directive.
Ireland's response to the proposals in the First Railway Package when it was at draft stage was to ensure that any directives adopted took account of our unique rail gauge and the fact that Ireland was isolated from the main European rail network and would not impose significant bureaucratic costs with little of no associated benefits. The Council agreed on the need for derogations for Ireland, (and Northern Ireland and Greece) to the more onerous administrative requirements in the directives contained in the First Railway Package. The derogations were granted for a five-year period until March 2008, but can be renewed. However they are conditional on (a) no railway undertaking from outside the island of Ireland applying to operate competing services and (b) no railway undertaking operating in Ireland applying to operate services in another Member State. To date, no such applications have been received. On this basis, we have been in correspondence with the European Commission requesting a further five-year extension of these derogations and are awaiting the formal response of the Commission on this request.
On 26 June 2008 a letter of formal notice of an infringement was issued by the Commission in relation to the manner of implementation of Directive 2001/14/EC. This relates in the main to the absence of an infrastructure charging regime and failure to transpose Article 6 of Directive 2001/14/EC. The Commission has invited Ireland to submit observations within two months on this matter. A response to the Commission is in preparation.