Reducing CO2 emissions from aviation is very important to us, but we should keep an eye on the dimensions: Aviation’s CO2 emissions account for 2.69 percent of global CO2 emissions. From 2020, air traffic should grow CO2-neutrally, i.e. the growth in air traffic should no longer lead to an increase in CO2 emissions. To achieve this, the airlines will then have to buy certificates for the additional carbon dioxide and the proceeds will be used to finance certified climate protection projects that save the corresponding amount of CO2 elsewhere. This is an effective step because air traffic is growing – by around five percent every year worldwide. More and more people are demanding their right to mobility, and countries and continents are moving closer together in the wake of globalization. In the globalized world, there is no alternative to air travel on many routes. We support the expansion of trans-European rail routes. Austria is making a significant contribution with the expansion of the western route, as well as the construction of the Semmering and Koralm tunnels (to make the southern route more attractive) and the Brenner base tunnel.
We stand for a variety of mobility options in which attractive night trains can undoubtedly play an important role, provided they are accepted by consumers.
In more than 175 years, the climate-friendly rail system has become the backbone of public passenger transport and an indispensable transport partner in freight transport for many sectors of the economy. But just as we want to ensure an efficient infrastructure in the field of energy or information and communication technologies, we must also modernize public transport, and rail in particular, in line with the principle of eco-efficiency. In order to further strengthen rail as a climate-friendly mode of transport, we need to harness the positive effects of the investment programme, which is unique in Europe, permanently improve the range of services we offer our customers, and raise the potential for increasing efficiency.
Austria is located at the heart of Europe and thus represents an important hub solely due to its geographical location. This position can benefit enormously from the stronger development of the trans-European networks. In Austria, we are currently working on the further development of the 2025+ TARGET NETWORK and the creation of an Austria-wide integrated interval timetable with the necessary capacities.
The growing number of railway operators plays an increasingly important role in improving the efficiency of rail transport. In any case, their non-discriminatory access to the rail network must be guaranteed. Preparations are currently underway for competition on supra-regional rail links: It is planned to develop an action plan for the gradual introduction of competitive award procedures for public passenger transport services, taking into account the optional possibility of direct awards in the provision of regional and local transport services. In principle, it is precisely in air transport that more competition leads to more offer and lower prices. Wherever possible, free competition on the railways should therefore also be a European objective.
Since Austria’s accession to the EU, there have already been four so-called railway packages. In contrast to the successful liberalization of the air transport market from 1995 onwards, the liberalization of the railway market was repeatedly watered down by trade unions and former state railways. Rail is thus the only mode of transport in which, according to the EU Commission, more than 13,000 different national regulations continue to apply and which hamper efficient cross-border economic activity. For example, each locomotive must be approved separately in each country, which is a considerable financial and time effort. Austrian passenger trains are not allowed to travel to Italy because of fire safety regulations and locomotive drivers have to speak the national language at B1 level. These protectionist measures prevent competition and make the rail system artificially more expensive.
The railway as a mode of transport must face the challenges of liberalization (EU railway packages). Liberalization is going in the right direction, but more effort is needed to make rail competitive. There are some examples, such as the Brussels-Paris high-speed link or the private high-speed links in Italy, which show that rail can successfully replace air links if supply and competition are right. Between Brussels and Paris alone, air connections have fallen by over 50%. This, however, requires free competition – as has long been the case on the road and in the air.
Such a solution must also prove itself on the market. We reject models that can only survive through permanent subsidies. An important objective is to attract EU funds for infrastructure development along the European axes. This requires intensive cooperation with our neighbouring states to allocate funds and prioritize infrastructure development projects along the trans-European networks (TEN funding) and the establishment of new connections. The projects agreed at European level, such as access routes, should also be emphatically called for. Rail has the potential to establish itself as a cheap and fast alternative to air travel. However, this requires increased investment in the TEN-T core network and subsequently in the complementary network – as well as in the complete equipment of the European network with ERTMS. As soon as the infrastructure has been expanded with state aid – and free and fair access to it is guaranteed – private sector players will be found and the requested services will be available.
Infrastructure projects must be implemented more efficiently and with less impact on the budget. We will work towards this at European level.
What is now before us is a decision by the EP at first reading, and the trialogue negotiations on rail passenger rights have not yet been concluded. It is important, in any case, that railway operators should make their information available to third parties, because this will enable independent platforms (similar to providers such as Opodo and Co. in air transport) to provide customers with the best offer. Parliament also proposed that 50% of the price should be refunded if the delay is 1 hour and 100% of the ticket price if the delay is 2 hours. Strengthening passenger rights will strengthen the rail system as such. The question of exceptional circumstances is controversial, as Spain, for example, insists that snowfall should be considered force majeure, while neighbouring France does not consider snowfall to be a form of force majeure. According to an EP study, cases of force majeure would add up to EUR 8 million a year across Europe. The amount is bearable, as the abolition of exceptional circumstances saves passengers from harassment similar to that in the air transport sector. Railway companies are also free to insure themselves against certain cases. It is not necessary to pass the risk on to customers, especially if you want to make the railways more attractive.
CORSIA has not yet entered into force and an assessment of its effectiveness is therefore not yet possible. After all, thanks to CORSIA, the aviation industry is the world’s first and so far only industrial sector with its own climate protection instrument. However, efficiency increases through the implementation of SES II+ would already result in CO2 savings of more than 20% in European air traffic. The same applies to the development of more efficient engines through European framework research programmes. CO2-neutral air traffic can already be technically achieved by the use of synthetic fuels, but this requires an expansion of renewable energies. Aircraft movements themselves can be reduced by improving the rail system. An increase in the cost of air traffic would not have a lasting effect due to the lack of alternatives; it would merely have the undesirable effect that flying would no longer be affordable for some social classes.
The fact is that hardly any other industry has set itself such ambitious goals as air transport. Airlines, aircraft manufacturers, air navigation services and airports all over the world agreed on a climate protection strategy as early as 2009. The focus is on reducing carbon dioxide. The climate protection strategy states, among other things: Fuel efficiency will increase by 1.5 percent per year. Reducing the specific energy requirements of aircraft will reduce kerosene consumption and thus CO2 emissions per passenger. So far, the target has been achieved year after year. This is already leading to a decoupling of kerosene demand from traffic growth.
The next step will be to effectively design and implement the CO2 compensation system for offsetting the carbon dioxide emitted.
The implementation of Single European Sky would also bring enormous savings in flight time and fuel consumption and should therefore be pursued further. An important competitive factor is efficient and cost-optimized air traffic control. The relevant tariffs are to be gradually reduced.
In contrast to other modes of transport, domestic air transport bears its infrastructure costs for using the infrastructure at airports and in airspace through user charges instead of taxes – and is thus self-financing.
If the legislator were to introduce a kerosene tax, it would at the same time have to abandon the principle of user financing by assuming some of the air traffic control charges from taxpayers’ money itself.
In rail transport, we are a long way from complete user financing. Although rail users have to pay track access fees, these are not sufficient to cover the construction and maintenance of the infrastructure.
In 2018, public expenditure in Austria for rail transport amounted to EUR 3.2 billion (BVA 2018), for aviation as a whole only EUR 14.2 million, the majority of which was attributable to official tasks. Rail transport is therefore already being supported by competition with good reason.
The Volkspartei wants to avoid further cost burdens for people in Europe, but instead create positive incentives to encourage passengers to voluntarily switch to public, climate-friendly means of transport.
Instead of bans, we are focusing on positive incentives to encourage passengers to make a voluntary switch to public, climate-friendly means of transport. Responsible EU citizens decide on their own means of transport. The task of transport policy is to ensure fair framework conditions so that people have sufficient opportunities to meet their mobility needs.