One of the most eagerly awaited dossiers at the beginning of the year will undoubtedly be the fourth European railway package, which the European Commission is due to finally present, albeit with a slight delay, in the first few weeks of 2013 (the talk is of 23 January but the date is still to be confirmed). This imposing package will contain at least three extremely controversial proposals: opening up national passenger railway traffic to competition (the Commission is due to propose 1 January 2018 as the deadline), strengthening the independence of infrastructure managers vis a vis railway companies by requiring total separation of the two structures (the end of holding companies) and a revision of the rules on the awarding of public service contracts in passenger railway transport - Regulation 1370/2007 - in order to make the tendering procedure for granting these contracts compulsory (currently, countries have the choice between going via a tendering process or directly granting these contracts).

The lobbying, which has been intensifying for months - with railway actors not always being in tune with it - will only increase in intensity because the Commission seems to be opting for an extreme route on the management of infrastructure' dossier (unbundling). Is it preaching as much as it can to have the least it can? No doubt. What is for sure is that opposition by Germany and France can be expected as the envisaged reform would force these two countries to review their railway structures (the reform of the SNCF French railways unveiled by the French government just a few weeks ago would be incompatible with the rules envisaged).


Alternative fuels. A strategy to promote alternative fuels in the EU is also due to be tabled quickly, probably as of January. It will be accompanied by a legislative proposal on the development of the distribution infrastructure for these fuels. The Commission's idea is to ensure that a sufficient number of charging locations (for electric vehicles) and refuelling stations for vehicles working with hydrogen or for boats fuelled with liquefied natural gas (LNG) are available in countries by 2020.

Single sky. A new single sky' package is being prepared and infringement proceedings are going to be launched against countries that are not in line with their obligations under current legislation. Siim Kallas, the EU's transport commissioner, had the chance to repeat that recently. The new proposals...

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