Berlin Declaration Supports International Rail Freight

Ten years ago today (22 September 2020) the European Parliament and the Council adopted Regulation (EU) No 913/2010 concerning a European rail network for competitive freight.

Then, in 2016, followed the Rotterdam Declaration on “Rail Freight Corridors to Boost International Rail Freight”, which was adopted by the Sector Statement Group of relevant railway stakeholders.

Yesterday in Berlin, the EU and EFTA’s transport ministers signed the ministerial declaration “Rail Freight Corridors: The Future of Rail Freight in Europe”, continuing the progress.

The Berlin Declaration sits amid the serious economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

The declaration notes that:

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, rail has proven to be reliable and punctual and an essential element of a resilient multi-modal transport system. Rail freight has continued to run largely without interruption. This has highlighted the key success factors of rail freight, namely good quality and high-capacity infrastructure.”

Commenting on its priority areas for rail, the declaration cites digitalisation – automation, interoperable IT systems, the deployment of ETCS and ERTMS both trackside and on-board – and research & innovation. Both of these areas underpin the Green Deal as they help drive modal shift and increase climate-friendly transport.

Berlin Declaration Commitments

With these things in mind, the EU’s transport ministers said they wanted “to support international rail freight and further strengthen the Rail Freight Corridors” by making the following commitments:

  • Further strengthen and develop the Rail Freight Corridors
  • Support rail freight stakeholders to enable them to better adapt to market needs
  • Enhance rail freight transport as one of the most environmentally friendly ways of moving freight
  • Bring about further technical and operational harmonisation
  • Recognise that a strong rail freight sector requires skilled workers

The declaration pressed home the need for Infrastructure Managers to develop virtual European Traffic Management, for 740m trains and for mitigating rail noise to increase rail freight acceptance among the population. Automatic digital coupling was another key area of interest and support.

The Sector Statement Group welcomed the ministerial declaration, saying:

“The Berlin Declaration showcases the necessary clear commitment of the EU Member States to support international rail freight and rightly recognises the environmental advantage of rail freight in view of the European Green Deal. We notably welcome the clear commitment of the Member States to agree on a migration strategy for Digital Automatic Coupling and the recognition of the importance of further digitalisation of infrastructure networks, capacity management and allocation.”

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