Multiannual financial framework and European expansion plan
On December 17, 2020, the institutions of the European Union (EU) definitively adopted the multiannual financial framework for 2021 to 2027 in the amount of about € 1.1 trillion at 2018 prices. The funding for transport from the Connecting Europe Facility is € 11.4 billion (plus an additional € 10 billion for the cohesion countries), € 81.4 billion (including € 5 billion from the structural plan) for the Horizon Europe research initiative and € 1.5 billion for military mobility. The core elements of the European Next Generation EU plan, which is intended to remedy the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, amounting to € 750 billion, were also decided. Within the framework of Next Generation EU, an expansion and resilience facility is being set up to provide financial support totaling € 312.5 billion to member states for reforms and investment between 2021 and 2026. To do this, member states must submit national development plans with projects to the European Commission for assessment. In order to implement the facility, national parliaments still have to ratify the new EU equity capital decision.
The European Green Deal
The European Green Deal is the European Commission’s road map for a sustainable, climate-oriented economy. As part of the European Green Deal, the Commission is setting the tar-get of climate neutrality for Europe by 2050 (zero emissions). A key component is the draft for a European climate law presented on March 4, 2020. This also defines and increases the interim target for emissions reductions by 2030 – to at least 55 %.
With the Green Deal, the Commission announced legislative measures that address almost all policy areas, in particular energy policy and transport policy. Among other things,the strategy on sustainable and intelligent mobility, the expansion of emissions trading, the revision of energy taxa-tion and the energy efficiency directive are particularly relevant for the transport sector. The Commission intends to submit the specific legislative proposals by mid-2021. Extensive impact assessments and consultations have already been launched.
European Year of Rail 2021
2021 has been declared the European Year of Rail by the European institutions. This is the first time that a European year has been dedicated to a specific sector and shows that the EU sees rail transport as a decisive component in achieving the objectives of the European Green Deal. Rail is the only mode of transport that has been able to reduce its CO₂ emissions almost continuously since 1990, while simultaneously increasing the volume of transport.
The themed year is intended to help to position rail as an environmentally friendly mode of transport and thus to achieve the objectives of the European Green Deal in the transport sector. The aim is to promote rail as a sustainable, innovative and safe mode of transport through events, campaigns and initiatives. The European Year of Rail will primarily build off the sector’s and its stakeholders’ communication measures.
Trade and cooperation agreement between the United Kingdom and the EU
The United Kingdom and the EU agreed on a free trade agreement on December 24, 2020, which provisionally entered into force on January 1, 2021. Formal ratification by the EU Parliament is still required. The agreement does not provide for customs duties or quotas for trade in goods between the EU and the United Kingdom and instead contains far-reaching regulations to guarantee fair competition. With regard to transport, the agreement provides for permanent networking in the areas of air, road and maritime transport, although market access is not on the same level as the domestic market. Rail traffic through the Channel Tunnel is secured for the next nine months in accordance with the EU’s contingency measures, which have already been approved. During this time, France and the United Kingdom are to conclude a cross-border agreement in order to secure tunnel traffic in the long term.
EU restricts use of loud freight cars across Europe from 2024
The technical specification for interoperability (TSI) relating to the subsystem “rolling stock – noise” (TSI Noise) provides for a prohibition on operating loud freight cars on heavily frequented lines throughout the European Union from the end of 2024. Quieter routes include all routes of more than 20 km on which more than 12 freight trains operate overnight.
The European Union Agency for Railways (ERA) has set up a task force to assess the extent of the reported lack of brake power in cars fitted with low-noise brake blocks under tough Nordic winter conditions. The ERA recommends that further tests be carried out before a final assessment is made. In its report dated October 22, 2020, the Commission also gave its support to this opinion. Initially, further tests will be carried out in winter 2020/2021 and the work will be continued by a task force focusing on safety-related aspects, led by the ERA. A new report is to be presented in 2021, on the basis of which the Committee will decide on the further course of action.
Compromise on social legislation in European road freight transport
In April and July 2020 respectively, the European Council and the European Parliament accepted a compromise in relation to Mobility Package I. With this the legislative procedure relating to new European standards for driving and rest periods, posting and cabotage are concluded after about three years of intensive negotiations. In future, truck drivers will have the right to return to their home town in future at least every three or four weeks. Regular weekly rest periods (45 hours) must be spent outside the driver’s cab. In the case of cabotage, three transports within seven days should remain possible. In addition, a cooling-off period of four days must be upheld. This rule also applies to the inflow and onward carriage of combined transport.
To improve monitoring, in future new trucks will need to be equipped with an intelligent tachograph.
Agreement on the revision of the European Passenger Rights Regulation
On October 1, 2020, the Council and Parliament reached an agreement on the revision of the European Passenger Rights Regulation. The agreement stipulates that the current amount of delay compensation will remain unchanged (25 % of the fare after one hour of delay, 50% after two hours). In future, in the event of exceptional circumstances, a TOC will be able to release itself from the obligation to pay compensation
for delays. The strict obligation to provide assistance to passengers with disabilities and passengers with limited mobility is generally limited to staffed stations. Four years after the effective date of the Regulation, TOCs must also provide a mandatory number of bicycle storage spaces when procuring new trains and performing the major modernization of trains. The number of spaces may be defined by the companies in plans for the carriage of bicycles, which must provide for a reasonable number and must be made available for public consultation. If the TOC does not set a number, a minimum of four bicycle spaces must be mandatory.
The agreement was finalized by the Council on January 13, 2021, and now has to be formally adopted by Parliament. The regulations must be applied two years after publication in the Official Gazette.