As the EU prepares to debate the latest draft measures in the "Fourth Railway Package", policy makers, legal experts and rail trade unions have met in Brussels today to discuss how Europe’s decision makers can learn from the experiences of rail liberalisation in Britain and Sweden.
The Fourth Railway Package - laws that would shape the future of rail across the EU - combines a number of technical, safety and co-ordination reforms (known as the “technical pillar”) with a raft of legislative proposals concerning competition and ownership (the “political pillar”) in the rail sector.
Central to the “political pillar” is a proposal to further liberalise Europe’s railways, by pushing national governments to privatise their rail networks.
Lucy Anderson MEP, Labour's European spokesperson on transport, said:
"Labour MEPs want to make sure that the mistakes made in Britain when rail privatisation was pushed through are not repeated at EU level.
"We also want to ensure the UK is able to shift away from its current model, which has resulted in prices rising, customer satisfaction falling and working conditions being undermined."
MEPs in the European Parliament have already voted to give national governments the choice as to whether they privatise or maintain state operated rail services.
However, ongoing disagreement between the Parliament, Commission and Council over the "political pillar" has left important technical concerns unresolved, as the political and technical aspects of the bill are currently being considered as a package.
Lucy Anderson MEP added:
"As the most privatised railway nations in Europe, Britain and Sweden are often cited as examples of how the Fourth Railway Package might work, but we know these systems are far from perfect.
"If we are to achieve a fair and efficient European rail market we must learn from past mistakes, and make sure any EU legislation works in the interest of rail workers and passengers."