For us Free Democrats, it is not the job of politicians to tell citizens which modes of transport they should use for which route. Rather, it is a matter of strengthening the competitiveness of all modes of transport equally and letting the citizens themselves decide which is the most efficient mode of transport for them and their needs.
In contrast to air and road transport, there is still too little competition in rail passenger transport. In some EU countries, for example, despite some steps towards deregulation, the passenger transport market remains closed to competition. Cross-border transport is also not taking place to the extent that it could. However, this is only possible with harmonised technical standards. Even today, the uniform train protection system ETCS is still waiting for EU-wide implementation, so that some rail vehicles still have to be completely replaced at the border. More competition and continuous cross-border connections would ensure better prices and more attractive connections for customers and significantly increase the attractiveness of rail transport compared to other modes of transport.
The measures taken to date to liberalise rail transport have brought about a number of improvements, particularly in the rail freight sector, as reflected in the sharp increase in the volume of goods transported. It has also been possible to define technical standards, which now need to be implemented swiftly. Passenger traffic remains the major weak point. Here the individual states have succeeded in protecting their railways, some of which are still owned by the state, from competition. Changing this must be the most important goal of further reform steps. Only if there is fair competition throughout the European railway area can the rail system benefit fully from this.
If private providers can be found who want and are able to operate their own profitable and attractive night train service, then this is to be welcomed. It is then up to the politicians to ensure non-discriminatory access to the market and to set equal conditions with regard to competition and technical standards.
A European high-speed network will only work if in all countries the same technical standards apply and are in place and if there is open market access for all railway operators throughout the European railway area.
We Free Democrats are in favour of strengthening and, above all, simplifying the enforcement of passenger rights. In future, it must also be possible to process claims digitally and thus more quickly. Consumers must be better supported in asserting their claims in every form of travel. This can be done, for example, by making use of specialised legal tech services. With regard to extraordinary circumstances, companies should not be able to evade liability in every incident, but companies should also not be liable for all uncontrollable and unforeseeable circumstances. The interpretation as to whether the circumstances present in the individual case are to be regarded as exceptional should be narrow and the company naturally has a burden of proof here.
We Free Democrats welcome the inclusion of air transport in the EU ETS and reject further regulations and levies. The ETS ensures that the climate protection targets of the economic sectors involved in it are achieved at minimum cost. That, for us Free Democrats, is precisely the advantage of emissions trading. Additional instruments, on the other hand, would hamper cost minimisation beyond economic sectors. It is important for us that greenhouse gas emissions are first avoided where it is most cost-effective to achieve this goal. This does not necessarily have to be the case for air transport. In any case, the transfer of the certificate price to air fares also has a steering effect on demand for air travel.
We Free Democrats do not support a general ban on short-haul flights. Internal EU flights are already fully integrated into the ETS and thus contribute to meeting climate protection targets. Accordingly, fewer flights would not lead to a reduction in GHG emissions, since the certificates released would allow emissions in other areas. Accordingly, we do not support any further measures to limit short-haul flights.