A level playing field for all transport modes, investment in rail infrastructure and modern rolling stock, continuation of restructuring process in the context of economic, legal and organisational aspects, are necessary in order to keep up with the developed railways and make this mode more competitive, were the key messages from the conference on “Railways in the EU Legislation”, which was held in Banja Luka on 26 September 2013.
The keynote speakers at this conference, organised by the Railways of the Republic of Srpska (ŽRS), with the aim of better understanding the legal and institutional framework for the operation of railways, were eminent experts from two very important railway organisations: Mr Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, UIC Director General, and Mr Libor Lochman, CER Executive Director, who provided a clearer picture for the political and economic decision-makers about the importance of very significant aspect of the rail transport development policy in Europe, with particular reference to the ŽRS, with an emphasis on the position, the perspectives and the role that the Railways of the Republic of Srpska ought the play, in accordance with the EU transport policy and prospects for railway transport.
In his speech Mr Loubinoux stated that the importance of railways was recognised globally, stressing the key role of authorities, i.e. the governments, in the environment where railways nowadays operate without obstacles, accompanied by regular investments in the infrastructure and modernisation of rolling stock.
“Any doubts about the potential and future of the railways were definitely dispelled in the 21st century. One of the key advantages of railways is exploitation of the so-called “long freight corridors”. Implementation of the investment projects in the rail infrastructure and connectivity of the Republic of Srpska and Serbia to the Corridors V, VII, IX and X opens the possibility for access to several ports and it is the step that Republic of Srpska should make in the current macroeconomic global vision,” said Mr Loubinoux.
Rail transport could be more competitive but substantial investments in the infrastructure are required, said Mr Lochman, CER Executive Director.
“We also need to ensure a level playing field for all transport modes in order to make railways more competitive. EU regulations in this area are not sufficient per se. The important thing is to properly understand that the European legislation serves as a reference while national governments must carry out the major task of implementing the European recommendations,” concluded Mr Lochman.
Addressing the attendees of the conference, Mr Nedeljko Čubrilović, Minister of Transport and Communications of the Republic of Srpska, pointed to the fact that rail transport is at a turning point and that, in the period of rail market liberalisation, we have to make even more effort to survive in the European transport market.
“For the last two-three years the Railways of the Republic of Srpska have made significant improvements to their operations, as well as certain steps towards restructuring of the system. Obtaining the operator license and maintenance certificate acknowledges our attempt to reach European standards, at least in the context of alignment with EU directives, and the planned acquisition of new locomotives and wagons will bring Railways of the Republic of Srpska to a higher level,” stated Minister Čubrilović.
The attendees, among which were representatives of the government agencies, industry, academia and social partners, were able to hear more on the subject of status, challenges, principles on which rail transport in this part of Europe should be regenerated, developed and modernised, as well as the perspectives and the role that ŽRS ought to play according to its comparative advantages and EU transport policy, as stated by Mr Dragan Savanović, ŽRS Director General.
“I am pleased to say that the conference was successful. If we wish a functional and modern railway system in the future, we must change our perspective. The conclusions we made here today, following the presentations and active discussions, shall be directed to the Ministry of Transport and Communications of Republic of Srpska, the Government and National Assembly of the Republic of Srpska, and we sincerely hope that concrete steps will soon be made for everyone’s benefit,” said Mr Savanović.
Evaluating the conference as successful, the participants reached the following conclusions:
- The presentations of the UIC Director General, Mr Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, and the CER Executive Director, Mr Libor Lochman, will make a contribution for political and economic decision-makers in the Republic of Srpska to better understand the railway sector and reach good decisions with more information for the benefit of, not only the railways, but also the overall transport and economic system in the Republic of Srpska and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Furthermore, CER will continue to make efforts and lobby in favour of extension of the SEETO network in B&H to the western and eastern borders with Croatia and Serbia respectively.
- The restructuring process in economic, legal and organisational terms must be continued, following the examples of small surrounding railway undertakings, as well as operational alignments in accordance with the integration requirements in the European transport market.
- There are three key elements for sustainable development of the railways: a level playing field for all the transport modes (internalisation of external costs), the competitiveness of the modes in terms of market liberalisation and balanced investments in rail and road infrastructure.
- Railways of the Republic of Srpska, as well as the political and economic decision-makers in the RS have tried to follow the developments in the field of railway transport, but it is obvious that more investments are needed: in the rail infrastructure, which is the responsibility of its owner, and in the mobile capacities, which is an obligation of railway undertakings, in order to respond better to the current needs of the economy and future challenges.
- The ŽRS is performing well in terms of freight traffic and this positive trend should be maintained, but it is necessary to find an adequate model for co-financing passenger traffic in order to justify the public service obligation. Also, in order to meet the demands of modern passengers (comfort, speed, better services, etc.), the lines need to be modernised and modern rolling stock acquired.
- Co-financing of public transport is a common obligation of the government and local communities.
- Railways of the Republic of Srpska, together with local communities, will work towards reducing level crossings and modernisation of the existing, both of which have its share in co-financing of the projects thereof.