New EU Rules to Improve Europe Rail Infrastructure

The European Union  is planning to introduce rules to improve international coordination of infrastructure works that will be implemented at the end of 2017, according to a report in the Journal of Commerce.

This was welcomed by the European Rail Freight Association (ERFA).  The ERFA highlighted  problems leading to poor quality rail service, including late information regarding planned disruptions, limited provision of — or unsuitable, diversionary routes and  uncoordinated infrastructure works across one or more networks.

On August 12, work on the new Rastatt Tunnel freight bypass caused the track through the Rhine Valley to subside by half a meter (1.6 feet) between Karlsruhe in Germany and Basel in Switzerland, making the route unsuitable for rail traffic. This immediately blocked the way for more than 100 trains a day, forcing cargo shippers to scramble for alternatives, which were themselves limited because of widespread maintenance work by rail operator Deutsche Bahn and its subsidiary DB Netz.

Among the positive changes from the EU rules were the requirement for rail operators to provide early advance warning for major capacity restrictions lasting more than seven days and affecting 30 percent of traffic, and for infrastructure managers to set up a coordination platform, together with users and service facilities to prepare timetables, including the provision of diversionary routes.

Infrastructure managers, including those impacted by the rerouting of trains, are now obliged to coordinate among themselves capacity restrictions more than 24 months before changes to the working timetable.

Also among the changes were involvement of users in the early coordination work, early and clear communication, and planning that minimizes rail disruption where for the most disruptive capacity restrictions lasting more than 30 days and affecting more than 50 percent of traffic, at least two alternatives of capacity restrictions must be offered to users, indicating the duration of the disruption and available capacity on diversionary lines.