Stakeholders warn European rail sector at risk after Brexit

Brexit threatens the European rail sector © Mike Knell
© Mike Knell

Leading stakeholders in the European rail sector have warned the European Commission to try to mitigate the potential impact of Brexit on rail during negotiations.

At an event hosted by Euractiv in Brussels, Belgium earlier this week, Laura Wright, head of international policy at the UK’s Rail Delivery Group, warned that the EU has not made sufficient efforts to protect the European rail sector, nor outlined a plan for contingencies, in the wake of Brexit.

Wright suggested that how the EU and the UK deal with rail could serve as a litmus test for the future of their relationship: “Brexit is happening. It’s the cards we have been dealt. Getting it right for the rail industry will be a barometer for whether Britain and Europe can prosper together in the decades ahead.”

She added: “One of our concerns is that rail tends to be at the bottom of the transport list, and transport tends to be at the bottom of the list on Brexit.” Despite this, Wright continued, rail has a significant impact on imports and exports, and this should be taken into consideration.

Preparing for Brexit

Across Europe, the rail industry is worth €143 billion and accounts for some 577,000 jobs. In the UK, some 40,000 railway jobs are held by migrants from other EU countries, whose fates remain in question following the Brexit vote.

Also speaking at the event, Karima Delli MEP, chair of the European Parliament’s Transport Committee, who explained that her committee had no clearer insight into the future of Europe’s rail sector than those in the industry. She warned companies to prepare for the worst case scenario – that of a no-deal Brexit.

Delli said: “For sure Brexit will have an impact on the sector because the EU and UK are connected by a railway, the Channel Tunnel, whose rules of circulation may be affected. Can the Tunnel still be competitive in case of new customs fees and additional administrative burdens?”

As well as the border at Calais, rail links between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland could be called into question by Brexit.


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