The 11th High Level Freight Meeting (HLFM) took place on 17 and 18 April 2012 in Brussels. This meeting is organised by CER and UIC on an annual basis.
On the evening of 17 April Mr Jean-Eric Paquet, Director of the European Mobility Network at the DG Mobility and Transport of the EC was invited to talk about the future of wagonload traffic. Mr Paquet pointed out that rail freight was a key issue in the EC’s daily work and wagonload traffic would continue to be the backbone of that business. He also stressed that the EC had recently launched a year-long study to review the prospects and policy options for wagonload traffic. He announced that the Marco Polo programme would focus on wagonload traffic again next year.
Freight CEOs complained about the current situation in which the railway system was becoming increasingly expensive and complicated while trucks were becoming cheaper and easier to operate. From their point of view the EU had to act against these imbalances. Growth of the railway market would not be sufficient; a modal shift from road to rail would be necessary.
Mr Paquet emphasised that the EC was increasingly aware of IMs acting like monopolies and therefore not being efficient. That was why the EC had already fought for unbundling, greater transparency and governance structures for IMs to help them increase productivity.
One major topic discussed on 18 April was how freight RUs could coordinate efforts to defend their interests concerning the implementation process of EU Regulation 913/2010 for a competitive freight network. Four companies (BLS Cargo, DB Schenker Rail, SBB Cargo and TX Logistic) had launched an initiative to define the requirements of freight operators vis-à-vis IMs and transport ministries on the Rotterdam-Genoa ERTMS corridor. Their position paper was published in December last year. Since December, Forum Train Europe (FTE) (a coordination body for RUs harmonising international production plans and path requests for European rail traffic) has further developed that draft into “Uniform Requirements of Railway Undertakings” applicable to all corridors. The paper, agreed on by the freight CEOs at the meeting, is expected to be used as a joint statement to IMs and transport ministers across Europe. Sylvie Charles, CEO of SNCF Fret, presented some examples of how rail freight productivity could be increased through the use of longer and heavier trains. She underscored the need to rethink the performance limits of rail resources by focusing on the weakest points in the network, as it was often possible to increase rail freight productivity simply through minor investments.
Libor Lochman, CER Executive Director and TAF-TSI Co-Chairman, explained the grounds for the EC decision to launch a process establishing a new TAF-TSI deployment plan, which was now meant to be more suited to rail operators’ current capabilities. ERA had been mandated to oversee the change management process, which meant that all changes to the TAF specifications were under the responsibility of ERA. From now on the sector would be monitored by ERA and the EC during the implementation process. However, in order to achieve the most cost-effective solution the sector had to remain in control of implementation. Otherwise the EC and ERA were likely to impose an implementation strategy on the sector.
To meet this objective it was best not to leave further work on implementation only to the IT departments of the companies, but also to ensure that an optimum coordination process was being secured at management level. This point of view received the backing of participants at the meeting.
The next HLFM is scheduled for 11 and 12 April 2013 in Brussels.