News Release – How to make EFSI a success story for rail: aspirations and concerns of the rail sector
Brussels, 21 October – The Juncker Investment Plan and its related financial tool, the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) can be a genuine opportunity for the rail sector, provided that rail stakeholders and transport policy makers, including the European Investment Bank, join their efforts to attract private investors for rail projects. This includes ensuring that some of the significant funds mobilised by this ambitious initiative can be directed towards further improving the European rail system. This was the main message from participants at last night’s Rail Forum Europe dinner held in Brussels, sponsored by CER and UNIFE and chaired by RFE Vice-President Georges Bach.
Libor Lochman, Executive Director of CER, highlighted that various categories of risks related to politics, construction and demand, make rail projects rarely suitable for EFSI with some exceptions, such as the financing of trackside ERTMS deployment. He commented: “EFSI can represent an opportune tool for financing certain aspects of the rail business, but it doesn’t come without concerns. Whereas ERTMS deployment, for example, might benefit from EFSI-guaranteed PPP schemes, a majority of rail infrastructure investments require a mix of grants and loans: in other words EFSI cannot be an excuse to reduce the responsibilities that European and national budgets must have in promoting a better quality rail infrastructure.”
Philippe Citroën, Director General of UNIFE, welcomed the EFSI as an excellent initiative to revitalise the European economy. He said: “The European rail supply industry stands ready to cooperate with the public authorities, operators and infrastructure managers in order to put forward concrete projects for EFSI financing be it in the field of urban mobility, rail connections to airports, ERTMS deployment or high speed rail infrastructure. Given the relatively low immediate return and the need for additional public grants, the rail projects will most likely require particular attention from the new European Investment Advisory hub. Therefore, we call on the European Commission and the European Investment Bank to mobilise their resources to ensure that rail sector benefits from the EFSI.”
Stephane Ouaki, European Commission’s DG MOVE Head of Unit on Connecting Europe – Infrastructure Investment Strategies, highlighted the opportunities for the rail sector in the framework of the Juncker Plan and of other existing financial instruments, commenting: "The railway sector should seize the moment and make the most out of the instruments available under the CEF, EFSI and the Advisory Hub. Not only do these schemes offer railways a wide range of financing opportunities, they provide further impetus towards identifying innovative financing schemes as part of the EU transport infrastructure investment strategies, helping railway play a continuing role in this process.”
Piers Vickers, Deputy Economics Adviser in the Public Transport Division of the European Investment Bank, emphasised the historical commitment of the EIB for rail projects and pointed out that during the last five years the EIB has made over EUR 21 billion available for rail investments. He commented: “As traditional public finance is no longer enough to finance rail projects, less red-tape and bureaucracy should encourage private investors to come on board. In this context, it is really up to the promoters to ensure that solid rail projects are put forward for EFSI financing.”
Opening the discussion, Anne-Laure Le Merre (UITP) echoed UNIFE’s call for the EIB and the Commission to support the application of regional, suburban and urban rail projects under EFSI, helping attract private investors and added: “UITP has engaged in a dialogue with the EIB to understand how urban rail projects could be best submitted.”
Luc Aliadière (French rail industry association, FIF) highlighted the need to join efforts in order to attract private investors. He said: “The rail sector should not hide behind Member States. All rail stakeholders should work together to modernise the network.”
Michel Reusen (ERTMS Group) outlined the attractiveness of ERTMS for private investors: “Increased productivity and capacity of the network provide a tangible return on investment. This makes investments in ERTMS attractive for private investors and therefore suitable for EFSI”.
RFE Vice-President and Member of the European Parliament’s TRAN Committee Georges Bach thanked the participants and concluded the debates: “The railway sector needs to benefit from the EFSI and we are all keen on finding ways to ensure that railway is boosted by the Juncker Plan.”
Rail Forum Europe will hold its next dinner event in January 2016. On this occasion, the MEPs will address issues related to internalisation of external costs within the EU transport sector.
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About Rail Forum Europe
Founded by Members of the European Parliament from across the parliamentary committees, Rail Forum Europe is an international non-profit making association that aims at bringing together EU decision-makers and the rail sector to achieve a better understanding of rail-related issues.