RAILWAYS (5744/02; 5723/02; 5724/02; 5726/02;
Letter from David Jamieson MP to the Chairman
5744/02 COM(2002)21 FinalProposal for
a directive on safety of the Community's railways and amending
council directive 95/18/EC on the licensing of railway undertakings
and directive 2001/14/EC on the allocation of railway infrastructure
capacity and the levying of charges for the use of railway infrastructure
and safety certification.
5723/02 COM(2002)22 Final-Proposal for a directive
amending council directive 96/48/EC and directive 2001/16/EC on
the interoperability of the trans-european rail system
5724/02 COM(2002)23 Final-Proposal for a Regulation
establishing a European Railway Agency.
5726/02 COM(2002)24 FinalRecommendation
for a decision authorising the commission to negotiate the conditions
for community accession to the convention concerning international
carriage by rail (COTIF) of 9 May 1980, as amended by the Vilnius
protocol of 3 June 1999.
5727/02 COM(2002)25 Final-Proposal for a directive
amending council directive 91/440/EEC on the development of the
Thank you for your letter of 27 March, in which
you retained your scrutiny reserve and asked to learn the results
of the consultation exercise carried out by my Department over
the summer. In your letter of 30 October you also asked for a
detailed account of how discussions have progressed, in view of
the Presidency's hope for political agreement at the December
I am pleased to enclose a copy of our report
on the consultation exercise, which we will be publishing shortly.
The responses we received provide broad support for the key elements
of the Government's initial views on the proposals, namely:
support for further liberalisation
of the rail freight market; and
concerns about the balance between
potential costs and benefits of some of the technical harmonisation
Subsequent to the consultation exercise my officials
have continued to work closely with the Strategic Rail Authority,
The Office of the Rail Regulator, Health and Safety Executive
and rail industry parties to see how concerns about the potential
costs of some of the measures can be satisfactorily addressed
through changes to the texts.
It might be helpful to the Committee if I were
to summarise how the discussions on these proposals have progressed
in the Council and European Parliament.
Work in Council on the package started under
the Spanish Presidency. The Danish Presidency has, however, given
priority attention to this package, and is aiming to achieve political
agreement at the 5-6 December Transport Council. Considerable
progress has been made in Working Group discussions over the last
few weeks and many detailed improvements have been made to the
texts. Turning to the specific issues mentioned in our Explanatory
Text acceptable to all Member States and the
Commission addressing the need for bi-national regulation of specialised
cross-border infrastructure such as the Channel Tunnel has been
There are two main issues outstanding. The first
concerns the processes for bringing into effect new national safety
rules. There is broad agreement in principle on the need for more
flexibility in the text, which should satisfy our concern that
the processes should not undermine the principle that responsibility
for safe management of the railway rests with the industry not
the safety regulator; though a precise text acceptable to all
States has yet to be agreed. The second is the proposal for Common
Safety Targets. UK concerns about the potential costs or negative
impact on existing safety levels are shared by France, Spain,
Ireland and Portugal. We are working closely with UK stakeholders
and other Member States to achieve an acceptable compromise text
that protects against these impacts.
Our concerns about the potential costs of the
proposal to extend the scope of the Directives to the whole EU
network are shared by France, Germany, Spain and Ireland. Again,
we are working closely with others to achieve an acceptable text
that protects against any significant adverse cost imposts.
Text changes have been agreed which substantially
clarify the role of the Agency, and reduce it in respect of the
investigation of Notified Bodies appointed to assess interoperability
conformity in the Member States. At working level all Member States
(but not yet the Commission) are agreed on text changes to align
the governance of the Agency with that of other European transport
agencies (EMSA and EASA), thereby giving more influence to the
Member States as opposed to the Commission.
The basis on which the Community can accede
to the Convention, and how it expects to exercise its competence,
have been clarified to the satisfaction of all Member States.
Eight Member States, including the UK, fully
support this proposal, but France, Belgium and Luxembourg oppose
it. Of the remaining three (Finland, Greece and Ireland) Ireland
has made clear it would not join a blocking minority. It therefore
seems unlikely that a blocking minority could be obtained if the
matter were pushed to a vote.
The proposals have yet to have their First Reading
in the European Parliament. However, it is expected that some
300 amendments will be considered by the Regional Transport and
Tourism (RETT) Committee later this month. The first Plenary Reading
is expected in Decembertoo late to allow the Parliament's
views to be taken into account in any political agreement at the
December Council. It is difficult to predict the outcome of the
Parliament's consideration at this stage, however potential areas
of significant difference from the Council position are:
greater involvement of the social
partners in the technical work of the Agency and in its management
(where the Government would want to consider carefully the practicalities
and added value);
emphasis on achieving the optimum
level of railway safety (where the Government would want to examine
carefully the relative costs and benefits; and
action to extend the liberalisation
of the passenger rail market as well as the freight market (which
the Government could support in principle provided that there
were not adverse effects on subsided franchised services).
I will write again if any further progress is
made before the Transport Council in December. In the meantime,
I hope the Committee finds this information useful.
21 November 2002
Letter from the Chairman to Mr David Jamieson
Thank you for your letter dated 11 November
which Sub-Committee B considered at its meeting on 2 December.
We are grateful for this account of your consultation
exercise, and also for updating us on the progress made in the
Working Group discussions since March this year. We note that,
while many elements coincide with UK interests,there are still
problems in some areas, and that the views of the European Parliament
have yet to be made known, particularly on complete freight liberalisation.
We understand that the Strategic Rail Authority
(SRA) has expressed reservations about some of the aspects of
this package, for example, it has doubts over the intended timescales
and the contribution of the interoperability Directive to achieving
the Commission's objectives of reducing costs and facilitating
the opening of the market. The SRA suggests that an analysis of
costs and benefits should be undertaken before future extensions
of the scope are proposed.
The SRA also supports the creation of the European
Rail Agency (ERA) as long as it remains an advisory body and not
constitute an additional regulatory organisation. SRA urges that
UK staffing of this Agency should come via the Department for
Transport or the SRA rather than through the Commission. On safety,
the SRA believes it is premature to impose a common safety framework
and that the harmonisation of safety regulation should be part
of the longer-term process. In short, the SRA fully supports the
further opening of the freight market and the extension of liberalisation
to the International passenger market provided the required capacity
is available and subject to existing regulatory regimes.
We should be grateful to have the Government's
views on the points put forward by the SRA.
Under the circumstances, we maintain the Scrutiny
reserve on these documents, but would be grateful to be given
an account of the discussions at the Transport Council on 3-4
4 December 2002
Letter from John Spellar MP, Minister
of State to the Chairman
Thank you for your letter dated 4 December to
David Jamieson, in which you asked him to comment on the views
of the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) on the second Railway Package,
and to report on the Transport Council discussion on 6 December.
The Government agrees with the SRA's views on
all the issues raised in your letter. We have been working closely
with SRA colleagues, alongside other stakeholders, throughout
the development of our policy on the Second Rail Package, and
we have reflected these concerns in Council meetings and in briefing
On the first issue, the proposed extension of
the scope of interoperability requirements, the Commission has
explained the difficulty in producing an analysis of the costs
and benefits, given that these depend on the technical specifications
that would be developed for the remainder of the EU network at
a future date. We have made clear that we can only support this
proposal if our concerns about the potential costs are satisfactorily
progressed. We have therefore been working closely with SRA, as
mentioned in my last letter, to propose changes to the proposal
to provide further safeguards against additional costs being imposed.
On the European Rail Agency (ERA), the proposal
is indeed that the Agency should be an advisory body providing
a source of neutral technical expertise at a European level, rather
than a regulatory body. Nobody has challenged this during negotiations.
On the question of staffing, in the Council working group it has
been agreed to amend the draft directive to permit secondees to
the ERA to be drawn from Member States, thus allowing a role for
the Department of Transport and the SRA. This, together with changes
to the composition of the management board on which all Member
States are agreed, will go a long way to meeting SRA's concerns
that the Agency give proper consideration to the cost and public
funding implications of its recommendations.
We share the concerns voiced by the SRA on safety
harmonisationspecifically on the potential implications
of common safety targets. There have been very positive developments
on this issue in recent weeks in the Council discussions, including
at the December Council as reported below. We will continue to
press for further necessary changes to the texts to ensure that
the timescales, and extent of, harmonisation are realistic and
do not impose unreasonable costs, or reductions in safety, on
individual Member States.
Finally, on the opening up of the freight market
and the extension of liberalisation to the passenger market, the
Government fully supports the SRA's position. These proposals
to extend the scope of who can apply for rail infrastructure capacity
should not cause any additional capacity problems since they do
not interfere with the mechanisms already in place in Directive
2001/14/EC which allow regulatory bodies and infrastructure manages
to limit access to the network where there is insufficient capacity.
We endorse the SRA's view that further liberalisation in passenger
services would be welcome only if existing regulatory safeguards
to protect the interests of passengers and taxpayers in the operation
of subsidised franchised services can be preserved.
You also asked for an account of the discussions
at the Transport Council on 6 December. I represented the UK in
a short orientation debate. Ministers welcomed the substantial
progress that has been made on the Package, and gave their views
on two issues raised by the Presidency. There was a strong consensus
that individual Member States if they wished should be able to
maintain higher safety levels than those required by the proposed
Common Safety Targets. On interoperability, a majority of Member
States favoured extending coverage to a well-defined part of the
network in the near future, although a few preferred it to cover
the whole EU network in the near to medium term, as the Commission
has proposed. The Presidency concluded that officials should continue
to work on the package, taking into account these positions. Greece
made clear that it hoped to reach agreement on the package during
its forthcoming Presidency; and further working group discussions
have already been scheduled for January.
Your Committee may also wish to note that the
first Reading of the European Parliament is now expected to be
in w/c 13 January.
31 December 2002
Letter from the Chairman to Mr John Spellar
MP, Minister of State, Department for Transport
Thank you for your letter dated 31 December
2002 which Sub-Committee B considered at its meeting on 20 January
We note that you have been working closely with
the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) on all these issues.
You suggest that negotiations are moving in
a direction that meets UK concerns. We very much hope that this
is so. The European Scrutiny Committee of the French Senate has
recommended that the French Government resist the further liberalisation
of the right of access to the freight network until such time
as the access provided for under the first package in Directive
2001/14/EC is completed.
At the first Reading of the European Parliament
on 15 January 2003, Georg Jarzembowski's report on opening the
rail market was adopted by an overwhelming majority and that the
Committee adopted amendments in favour of opening up the entire
network by 1 January 2006. We should like to know how the Government
views the European Parliament's initial response to this package.
29 January 2003
Letter from John Spellar MP to the Chairman
I am writing in reply to your letter of 29 January,
and to seek scrutiny clearance on this package, on which the Greek
Presidency aims to reach political agreement on a common position
at the 27-28 March Transport Council.
It may help the Committee if I were to summarise
recent developments in the European Council and the European Parliament
since my letter of 31 December 2002 on this set of proposals,
collectively known as the "Second Rail Package".
You may recall that the Danish Presidency did
not, in the end, meet its ambitious target of achieving political
agreement in December 2002. The current Greek Presidency has continued
to work on the Package, and aims to achieve political agreement
at the next Transport Council.
The benefits to the UK of this package are limited.
Completion of freight liberalisation will have no significant
impact within Britain, as the market is already liberalised. But
it will have some medium and longer term benefitsof uncertain
scalein providing new commercial opportunities for UK firms
in other EU markets, and incentivising improved performance and
growth in international rail freight traffic to/from the UK. However
the more technical parts of this packageon interoperability
and safety regulationprobably have, at best, a neutral
effect in the UK; albeit that common EU technical specifications
should theoretically help to reduce supply costs in the longer
term. And the UK has had to press hard during the negotiations
to ensure that potential adverse impacts in the shorter term on
safety levels and costs are avoided. I am therefore clear that
the UK should only agree to a package if it includes a clear timetable
for completion of freight liberalisation, and does not concede
ground on technical matters that could impose additional costs
on the industry and Government.
Turning now to the detail, our concerns about
the adverse impacts of the technical proposals are satisfactorily
addressed in the current working texts. My officials have been
working in close partnership on these matters with key stakeholdersin
particular the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the Strategic
Rail Authority (SRA) and the Office of the Rail Regulator (ORR).
We have also taken full account of the views expressed by those
who responded to our consultation exercise, including rail industry
parties and user groups. Taking each proposal in turn:
David Jamieson's letter of 11 November outlined
the two main outstanding issues where we had concerns.
Our first concern was about the process for
bringing into effect national safety rules. We wanted to ensure
that the national safety authority did not have to take responsibility
for the content of safety rules. The current draft is more flexible.
This means that the Directive can be implemented in a way that
respects our key principle of safety managementthat responsibility
for a safe railway rests with the industry not the safety regulator.
The HSE, in particular, is content with this outcome.
Our second concern was the proposal for Common
Safety Targets (CSTs). The text needed to include further safeguards
against potentially excessive cost burdens or negative impacts
on current safety levels. We have now achieved a satisfactory
text, which requires full cost-benefit analysis for all CST proposals,
and ensures that they face a test of "reasonable practicability"
for each Member State. It also ensures that Member States can
continue to require safety levels higher than CSTs, so long as
these do not constitute a disguised restraint on trade.
We are now therefore content with the current
text of the Directive. There remain a few items of concern to
other Member Statesin particular the arrangements for Commission
scrutiny of new national safety rules, safety management responsibilities
when accidents are caused by third parties, and independence requirements
for safety authorities and accident investigation bodies. The
Presidency is aiming to reach compromises on these matters. We
will want to ensure that these compromises do not prejudice existing
UK safety management practices.
Our concerns about the potential costs of the
proposal to extend the scope of the Directives to the whole EU
network were widely shared. The current text resolves this problem
in two ways.
First, the text now includes two important additional
safeguards against additional cost burdens for which the UK has
The first safeguard is that further
disaggregation of the sub-categories of rolling stock and infrastructure
for which technical specifications for interoperability (TSIs)
are to be developed is now required. This should help to ensure
that TSIs properly reflect the different performance characteristics
appropriate for different parts of the network. This should make
for more cost-effective TSIs.
The second safeguard is that Member
States can now make their own decisions on the extent to which
TSIs are to be applied in projects for renewal and upgrading on
the conventional TEN network. Under the original proposal and
the existing Directive Member States would have had to seek derogations
from the Commission in a far greater range of circumstances. This
is an important additional protection, should TSIs still turn
out to be insufficiently cost-effective. There is no evidence
that the Commission could cope effectively and quickly with a
large volume of derogation requests.
Second, the text no longer includes a "blanket"
extension of the scope of interoperability requirements to the
whole conventional rail system from 2008, as originally proposed.
The scope will be extended progressively, as and when the relevant
Technical Specifications for Interoperability (TSIs) are agreed.
The first batch are to be agreed by 2009.
These changes allow Member States to prevent
the imposition of excessive cost burdens on vulnerable parts of
the rail infrastructure. We, and the SRA, are therefore content
with the current text.
The Commission remains (alone) opposed to text
changes which align the governance of this Agency with that of
other transport agenciesEMSA and EASAgiving more
influence to the Member States relative to the Commission. In
addition the involvement of other organisations, as voting or
not-voting members of the Agency Board, remains under discussion
in the light of European Parliament amendments on this issue and
precedents in the EASA text. We can be flexible on these points,
though in the absence to clear justification we would be reluctant
to agree arrangements that diverge substantially from those agreed
for EASA and EMSA.
The other main outstanding issue is the working
languages of the Agency, where Member States are unable to agree
between three proposed options. English would, under any of these
options, become one of the working languages of the Agency. We
have therefore remained neutral.
The Commission has recently dropped its objections
to aspects of the proposed arrangements for consulting Member
States during negotiations for Community accession to COTIF. All
delegations are now content with the current text.
There has been little movement since David Jamieson's
11 November letter. France, Belgium and Luxembourg continue to
oppose early agreement on the proposal for full liberalisation
of international and domestic rail freight services from around
mid 2005, until the Commission has reported on the effect of the
liberalisation measures in the previous rail package (Directives
2001/12, 2001/13 and 2001/14/EC, due to be implemented by 15 March
2003). Finland, Greece and Ireland retain reservations for various
reasons, but we think they are unlikely to join a blocking minority.
Other Member States favour the proposal, and seven (DK, ES, NL,
P, S, D and ourselves) would resist any attempt to progress the
other technical elements of the Package without progress on liberalisation.
The Presidency is therefore likely to seek a
compromise at Council. I am clear that an acceptable package for
the UK must include a clear timetable for completion of freight
The four proposals subject to the co-decision
procedure had their First Reading in the European Parliament on
14 January. All were passed with large majorities, with some 150
amendments proposed. You asked for the Government's views. Some
of these amendments are very helpful to the UK. Many others duplicate
changes agreedor at least debatedin Council. There
are, though, two main areas where we have concerns:
The European Parliament's proposed
amendments would require full passenger market liberalisation
from 2008 (international market from 2006). We would welcome progress
on passenger market liberalisation. But these specific amendments
could prejudice our ability to restrict competition against subsidised
competitively tendered services in the interests of passengers
and taxpayers, as in currently practicised in Great Britain through
the Rail Regulator's moderation of competition policy. Both the
Commission and the Parliament's rapporteurMr Jarzembowskiare
receptive to these arguments. Mr Jarzembowski has explained to
my officials that this amendment is a negotiating tactic to force
the Council to make some progress on passenger liberalisation.
The Parliament has also proposed
a small number of detailed changes to the safety Directive which
are either incompatible with rail safety management practice in
the UK or risk imposing unjustified costs.
As neither the Commission, nor any of the Member
States, has sought to incorporate these amendments in the Council
text, we will not need to argue these points at the March Council.
We will however continue to lobby UK MEPs and the rapporteurs
on these matters, with the aim of achieving a satisfactory result
when the Package returns to the European Parliament for its Second
I would be pleased to provide any additional
information that would assist the Committee in its considerations.
11 March 2003
Letter from the Chairman to the Rt Hon
John Spellar MP
Thank you for your letter of 11 March 2003 which
Sub-Committee B considered at its meeting on 17 March.
We note your comments on each of the different
proposals, and your conviction that UK interests are adequately
protected to enable you to agree a sensible compromise at the
27-28 March Transport Council. In particular, we note your requirement
that an acceptable package for the UK must include a clear timetable
for completion of freight liberalisation. Under these circumstances,
we lift the Scrutiny Reserve on these proposals.
However, we are still nervous about the intervention
of the European Parliament. We note Mr Jarzembowski's assurances
that your concern about the amendment that the European Parliament
would require full passenger and market liberalisation from 2008
(international market from 2006) was misplaced because the amendment
was designed as a negotiating tactic to force the Council to make
some progress on passenger liberalisation.
But, we remain uneasy about the proposed small
number of detailed changes to the safety Directive which are either
incompatible with rail safety management practice in the UK, or
risk imposing unjustified costs. We recognise that because these
do not form part of the amended Council text, you feel no need
to argue the points at the March Council, and that you will continue
to lobby in the European Parliament with the aim of achieving
a satisfactory result when the package returns for its second
We should, therefore, be grateful to receive
an account of your efforts in persuading the European Parliament
to meet your concerns on these important points when the European
Parliament holds its second reading on this package of proposals.
21 March 2003
Letter from John Spellar MP, Minister
of State to the Chairman
Thank you for your letter of 21 March by which
you lifted the Select Committee's Scrutiny reserve on the proposals
contained in the European Commission's second Railways package.
As you will know, political agreement was reached on this package,
by Qualified Majority Vote, at the meeting of the Transport Council
on 28 March 2003 in Brussels. The objectives I set out in my letter
of 11 March were achieved.
I have noted the Committee's continuing concern
about the intervention of the European Parliament, and the proposed
small number of detailed changes to the safety Directive that
are either incompatible with rail safety management practice in
the UK, or risk imposing unjustified costs. I shall keep the Committee
informed of progress in the European Parliament on these points,
in particular its second reading on this package of proposals.
9 April 2003