THIS week in Berlin, Europe’s leading railway CEOs gathered for the 70th general assembly of the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER), to assess and define priorities for 2023.

Ukrainian Railways’ CEO, Mr Oleksandr Kamyshin, highlighted Ukraine’s absolute commitment to maintaining a functional rail service at this difficult time and expressed his gratitude for the ongoing support of the European railway community.

As the European Commission (EC) contemplates revision of both the Combined Transport Directive and the Road Vehicle Weights & Dimensions Directive in early 2023, the CER has adopted a combined position paper on both. The assembly resolved that in an era of intermodal freight transport, along with energy scarcity, a simultaneous, combined, and intelligent revision of the two directives is essential.

The CER believes that this approach opens the way to unleash the potential of using multiple modes of transport to reduce Europe’s dependency on imported energy. CER’s view is that one revision should therefore not be considered without the other and the EC should support the whole transport system with a holistic approach.

The assembly has also adopted a position paper on the revision of railway state aid guidelines, as rail fulfils a critical socio-economic function of providing sustainable, energy-efficient, socially inclusive, and environmentally-friendly transport, and this should be reflected in the EC’s approach to state aid. The text of the railway guidelines should be updated to provide a strong incentive for a modal shift to rail and it should be made easier for EU member states to support rail.

The EC has also announced a review of Directive 2007/59/EC on certification of train drivers to address outdated provisions, ambiguous language, and possible scope adjustments. CER says it supports this revision, in particular making it easier for train drivers to move to other parts of the EU railway network. When a driver is relocating to another member state, the free, unbureaucratic exchange of their rail driving licence by the National Safety Authority (NSA) in the other EU member state should be guaranteed. CER recommends largely keeping a national approach for matters such as training requirements, but nonetheless recommends a gradual move to pan-European and digital solutions.

In the CER management board and executive directorship, the mandate of current executive director, Dr Alberto Mazzola, was renewed for a further two years. Mr Andreas Matthä, CEO of Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB), continues his term of office, which is his second two-year tenure as chairman of CER. The general assembly also confirmed that Ms Sophie Dutordoir, CEO of Belgian National Railways (SNCB), will now act as vice-chair alongside Mr Jean-Pierre Farandou, CEO of French National Railways (SNCF), Mr Richard Lutz, CEO of German Rail (DB), and Mr Krzysztof Mamiński, CEO of Polish Railways (PKP).

”It is important that the CER management committee has a regional balance, reflects different priorities, and stands for diversity,” Matthä said. “SNCB CEO Sophie Dutordoir will represent our railway interests as new CER vice-chair and will serve as an excellent role model for all women in the rail sector. I am also pleased that the new CEO of Hungarian State Railways (MÁV), Zoltán Pafféri, will continue MÁV's European commitment in the CER management committee.”