Speech by Wilma Mansveld, State Secretary for Infrastructure and the Environment at the conference on European rail freight corridors

Staatssecretaris Wilma Mansveld sprak vandaag 20 maart 2014 op de internationale conferentie over spoorcorridors in Gent (België). 

Mansveld: "The better the links between European countries, and the more barriers we can remove, the greater our chances of a strong European economy. Movement is vital to our economy. There is an enormous potential for rail freight. The opportunities are there. The foundations we laid in Rotterdam four years ago are solid. And we have made progress in the past few years. But now is the time to speed up. Close cooperation is needed. Today at this conference we can and must take further steps. Given the figures for future growth, doing nothing is not an option."

Fellow European Ministers, ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to be here today in the beautiful city of Ghent.
Let me start by thanking my colleague, Melchior Whatelet, for hosting this important conference.
Why important? Europe faces serious transport challenges. Goods flows are expected to rise by 40% by 2030. And by as much as 80% by 2050.
We have to place these figures in the context of the other challenges Europe faces: traffic jams, fuel shortages, CO2 emissions, air quality and the need for an efficient transport infrastructure.
Basically, this means we will have to make maximum use of every single transport mode. And, above all: rail freight.

We cannot face these challenges alone.
We have to work together closely and put our own interests to one side.
And I think we can do that.
In June 2010 we took the first historic step.
Ten transport ministers from ten European countries and EU transport commissioner Siim Kallas signed the Rotterdam declaration on rail freight corridors.
Even more important than the declaration itself was the message it sent to the outside world: we had worked together to bring our ideal of a network of European rail corridors closer to fulfilment. A unique project that would make the European economy stronger and more sustainable.

The better the links between European countries, and the more barriers we can remove, the greater our chances of a strong European economy. 

I am convinced that we can succeed.
Because we all realise that it is high time to fully utilise rail freight's potential for our internal market.
We can only do so if we ensure smooth links across borders.
Don't you find it odd that every country has its own system for measuring delays?
And isn't it odd that it costs € 32 million to get a locomotive into the European transport system, but only 2.5 million to do the same with an Airbus?
Both of these problems are being tackled.
We are moving in the right direction.

I am proud that we have chosen to take the offensive, together.
We are bringing an efficient and safe network of rail freight corridors within reach.
We are ensuring that Rotterdam moves closer to Warsaw, Antwerp and Ghent closer to Lyons and Basel, and Hamburg closer to Palermo.
For this reason I am working with the sector on a action plan.
One thing is certain: the corridors play a central part in that plan.
Because they have a huge potential.
We need to use that momentum today.
Now is the time to take decisive action, now that there are opportunities for international freight transport.

In the Netherlands, rail transport is facing heavy weather.
Yet rail freight grew last year.
For example: in 2013 4% more trains passed the border between Germany and The Netherlands.
While as many as 10% more trains crossed the border between Belgium and the Netherlands.
As you know the Betuwe freight line to the German border was opened in 2007.
By January 2014, 100,000 trains had used it.
Every year 130,000 trains use the freight corridor between Rotterdam and Genoa.
That is the equivalent of nearly 4 million trucks!

So rail freight is maintaining its modal share of our national transport market.
And the projections for the coming years are even better.
Analysts think that European rail freight will grow by 10% this year.
But we are by no means using the full potential of rail freight.

These figures should fan the flame of our ambitions. 
For this reason I am working with the sector on an action plan.
One thing is certain: the corridors play a central part in that plan.
We can all see that our roads are approaching gridlock. 
There is an increasing need for clean, safe and efficient goods transport. 
That should spur us on to make concrete agreements within Europe.
And to switch on the green light for growth. 
Growth of international rail freight corridors also means that we have to take measures to abate noise. Because we must ensure that rail freight remains acceptable to our citizens. Now is the time to act. Unless we make progress with this issue, rail freight operators could lose their licenses.
I will also ask the European Commission to take action on this matter.

For example, to reduce noise, we have to retrofit all freight wagons operating on the Rotterdam-Genoa corridor by 2021.
Germany and the Netherlands have already put incentive programmes in place.
And also the EU has earmarked funds for this major operation.

Ladies and gentlemen,
Many of our actions are built on the foundations of the Rotterdam declaration. For example:
At the end of 2012 the seven ministers of the countries linked by rail freight corridors one and two adopted a capacity allocation framework for the corridor one-stop shops. This was a clear sign of cross-corridor cooperation. A single one-stop shop was established for each of these corridors late last year;
At the end of last year we also approved the plan for the Rotterdam-Genoa corridor. This corridor has been operational since January of this year. The Rotterdam-Lyon corridor has been operational since last December;
Confirmation of the ERTMS corridor planning for the Rotterdam-Genoa route as of 2018 is another major achievement. From 2016 it will be possible to move from Rotterdam to Genoa without Dutch and Swiss signaling. And from 2019 with ERTMS only;
The common guidelines for our national safety authorities to authorize ERTMS locomotives on the corridor are another big improvement. That is a remarkable result of close cooperation, even before the adoption of the fourth railway package.

But besides all the things we achieved, I still believe we could be moving faster.
More cooperation and action are needed because we are facing great challenges in getting all this to work.
For example, the corridor one-stop shop should enjoy a position of its own on the market. And we must gradually increase the supply of railway capacity by the corridor one-stop shop - in terms of quality and flexibility.
Corridors need to work closely together.
The conference today is an example of good practice, since it involves two corridors.
It is also essential to deploy ERTMS on the corridors. Now that the political, legal and technical conditions are in place, operational rollout plans are barely needed.

To conclude.
Movement is vital to our economy.
There is an enormous potential for rail freight.
The opportunities are there.
The foundations we laid in Rotterdam four years ago are solid.
And we have made progress in the past few years.
But now is the time to speed up.
Close cooperation is needed.
Today at this conference we can and must take further steps.
Given the figures for future growth, doing nothing is not an option.
There is too much at stake: a strong European network of freight corridors can boost our national economies.
And help us seize the challenges that lie ahead.

Thank you.

De Rijksoverheid. Voor Nederland.