Railways have the potential to play an important role in an integrated, multi-modal, sustainable transport system. However, to do so, they must be able to compete with other modes and rail travel across the borders between EU Member States must be straightforward. However, as national rail systems were developed to serve national – rather than pan-European – needs, they still often have different standards and are governed by different regulatory systems. EU policy on rail, including on rail freight, has tried to address such interoperability concerns in order to help make rail more competitive. TEPR is currently part of a consortium that is supporting the European Commission in evaluating a Regulation that sets the framework for establishing rail freight corridors in the EU

The role of railways in a sustainable transport system

The use of railways for transporting freight has potential benefits in terms of improving the environmental performance of transporting freight, as well as for reducing congestion on the roads. More generally, a fully functioning, competitive railway sector is needed to ensure that the transport system can be fully integrated across all modes of transport in order to enable the most appropriate mode to be used for each part of each multi-modal journey. EU policy has, therefore, been active in revitalising the rail sector, both in terms of enabling it to be competitive and in improving the interoperability of the various national rail systems.

The development of rail freight corridors

In spite of a various pieces of EU legislation that have been put in place to support the development of the rail freight market in the EU, progress in the development of competition and interoperability had been slow. This was exacerbated by a lack of infrastructure for rail freight that was of sufficient quality and reliability, as well as a lack of cooperation between the various actors that need to be involved in transporting freight by rail1. As a result, the EU adopted a Regulation that aimed to set up rail freight corridors to help the transport of freight by rail become competitive2.

Evaluating the rail freight corridors Regulation

It is now nine years since the rail freight corridors Regulation was adopted, and four years since the final three of the nine rail freight corridors were established. Hence, it is now appropriate to evaluate the establishment of the corridors to identify the extent to which they have delivered on their original objectives. The European Commission is currently evaluating the Regulation, which is being supported by an ongoing study undertaken by a consortium that involves TEPR.

Further information

For more information on the project, or TEPR’s work more generally, please contact Ian Skinner at TEPR ( or call +44 (0) 1892 663289. Once it is published, the report will be available from ‘Railways and the environment’ page of TEPR’s website.


1 European Commission (2008) ‘Impact Assessment accompanying the proposal for a Regulation concerning a European rail network for competitive freight’, SEC(2008) 3029

2 Regulation (EU) No 913/2010 concerning a European rail network for competitive freight


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