Europe chips away at rail

18 January 2007

Europe chips away at rail

"With this proposal for the further liberalisation of rail transport, the European rail network will suffer still more cuts and travellers will be forced to take the plane.” So said SP Euro-MP and United Left Group (GUE-NGL) transport spokesman Erik Meijer yesterday during a lengthy exposition of the damaging consequences of previous moves to liberalise railways. Mr Meijer called on the European Parliament to vote to reject the latest of such plans.

Erik Meijer"Before the European Union came into being we already had good international train links,” said Meijer. It’s only now that coordination between each country’s network is starting to break down, with the rail system in Europe being cut back to a number of loss-making concerns competing one against another. Trans-frontier routes are increasingly subject to slimming-down or termination.” Meijer reminded European Parliament colleagues that in 2005 they had approved a liberalisation measure and that “Since then it has become increasingly difficult to buy a ticket for international travel.”

The SP Euro-MP argued that by such measures people travelling in Europe were, in the medium- or long term, being forced off the rails and into the air. “Privately-owned railway companies are concerned only with costs,” he said. “The more difficult it becomes to travel by train, the more air travel, with its price wars, becomes an attractive alternative. Further liberalisation of the railways is bad for travellers and bad for the environment."

Along with its partners in the GUE-NGL, the SP will be voting against these liberalisation proposals. "We will also certainly present a number of amendments in line with the demands of European consumer groups, in order to protect passengers as far as possible from the harmful consequences of this measure,” Meijer added.

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