[OPE] Railways

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@tiscali.nl)
Date: Mon Jun 09 2008 - 15:32:48 EDT

Well actually there's quite a bit of thinking going on Europe about rail strategy. Literally thousands of people are racking their brains about it, the challenges for human cooperation are tremendous. In fact the European Commission funds rail research to the tune of 150 million euro or so. Would you believe it, there is even a World Congress of Railway Research!

Just to draw your attention to a few sites:

The EIM site is here: http://www.eimrail.org/ It states "EIM is an open and democratic organisation. Each member has a vote. It is also unique in that it allows for the expression of minority opinions." 
The ERRAC site is here: http://www.errac.org/
The TER (trans European Railways project) is here: http://www.unece.org/trans/main/ter/ter.html
The CER site is here: http://www.cer.be/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=40&Itemid=43The ERA site is here: http://www.era.europa.eu/public/Pages/default.aspx
Euratel is here: http://www.euratel.org/?type=article&aid=generalspxP
I cannot do justice to all the literature obviously, and I am not an expert on this as I said, I am just indicating that in Europe, a lot of work is going into making rail traffic more efficient and cost-competitive, the general idea being that it has to be an outcome of a joint effort between the state and the private sector.

Of course, the plans for rail development are not without criticism. >From the European Transport Workers' Federation we learn e.g. that:

"The problem is: Railway unions are not consulted in the restructuring and liberalisation of railway companies. In the context of the economic transition, the railway unions from Baltic countries understand, that, whilst striving to maintain their membership, they have to adjust to the new economic policies tailored according to internal needs and external requirements, the latter being increasingly important particularly in the context of enlargement. In the recent years railway unions have witnessed the increase of consulting firms' influence on company policies. They, together with employer/ national government are the only decision making factors in drawing up this policy. Railway unions are rarely consulted and only as long as their input serves the wanted final outcome. In some occasions, governments put pressure on railway unions to agree with the solutions proposed by consultative firms, under the argument that these solutions are compulsory pre-conditions for enlargement! They are therefore keen on taking a more active role in the company policy in order to be able to control its effects on their membership." http://www.itfglobal.org/etf/balticrail.cfm

It's obviously impossible for railways to replace trucks completely for freight transport, but by specializing in particular categories of freight, it can hold its own. As regards passenger transport, trains in Europe - especially urban trains - are very intensively used.

As regards European freight transport, the total volumes are said to be increasing at 5% per year in tonne-kilometres. In most EU countries, rail freighting is growing.  Some data is available here: http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/pls/portal/docs/PAGE/PGP_PRD_CAT_PREREL/PGE_CAT_PREREL_YEAR_2008/PGE_CAT_PREREL_YEAR_2008_MONTH_04/7-10042008-EN-AP.PDF

This being so, I doubt that in the European case you are correct, if you think that there are few prospects anymore for the railways. Looks to me like the railways are here to stay. It's not simply a bubble.

"Generally, the railways gave of course an immense impulse to the development of foreign commerce, but the commerce in countries which export principally raw produce increased the misery of the masses." (Marx to Danielson, 10 April 1879). I doubt if he would phrase it like that today!

Anyway, we have the "soccer rage" here at the moment... it's hard to concentrate


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