Especially for distances up to 1,000 km the railways would of course be the most sensible means of transport in terms of climate protection. But the offer must fit – and from today’s point of view this is on the one hand too little available or on the other hand too expensive in many countries. The current distortion on the European transport market leads to the absurd situation that the choice of the socially much more harmful means of transport is cheaper and easier for consumers.
The example of night trains makes this particularly clear. Of course they would be an attractive alternative, but for decades the infrastructure and routes have been cut back. And then offers are cancelled due to lack of attractiveness. That is why I am glad that our ÖBB are setting a good example in Europe and, for example, have taken over the German routes. ÖBB are one of the very few railway companies, along with the Finnish Railways, to expand night trains and continue the modernization of their vehicle fleet.
We finally need fair framework conditions and fair competition between road, rail and air transport. In the long term, the costs caused by the choice of a means of transport should also be borne by those who cause them. After all, we all pay for the wear and tear of roads, air pollution or the depreciation of real estate. Environmentally harmful means of transport are even artificially reduced in price through tax breaks or subsidies.
To enforce such cost truth in transport is a mammoth task for transport policy, because it includes new priorities for investments, the restructuring of subsidies, an end to tax advantages for certain modes of transport and a general rethinking of transport and urban planning. For individuals, however, it also means more expensive air tickets or higher petrol prices. That is why the future of an ecological change in transport lies in a strong public transport system to enable all people, regardless of their income, to be sustainably mobile. Instead of reducing the burden on road and air traffic by billions, we need this money to invest in and expand public transport.
The liberalization of European rail transport by means of four railway packages to date has, contrary to all neoliberal promises of salvation, made this neither cheaper nor more efficient, nor has any progress been made in closing the gap in the European rail network.
For us as SPÖ, it is clear that further liberalization, for example within the framework of a fifth railway package, is out of the question. We have prevented the dismantling and privatization of ÖBB and have ensured that regional transport can continue to be awarded to red-white-red transport companies. We continue to stand by this, the obligation to liberalize does not bring any advantages in rail transport.
This has my full support. It is absurd that air transport, subsidized by tax, should continue to grow and become cheaper, while rail transport should remain on the route. If we compare the social consequences of the two modes of transport, our priorities should have changed long ago.
It is also a fact, however, that such a rethink is not taking place overnight. Above all, the issue must be on the agenda at EU, national and national level. And a coordinated, coordinated approach is needed, because transport is about investing billions. With the trans-European transport networks, the EU is trying to bundle investments along the most important transport routes. There is a lot of room for improvement in the design, but the direction is basically right. This is the only way to turn the national patchwork into a genuine common European transport area.
Unfortunately, today’s reality in the European rail network is that we are still far too often oriented towards national borders. The lever that the EU can use is the infrastructure investments that are available for the realization of the TEN-T. And here the SPÖ advocates a fundamental rethink.
Just last autumn, the EU Parliament voted on a law for better passenger rights in rail transport. These new rules are intended to make rail travel more attractive by making it easier to buy tickets, by providing better information about the itinerary and by increasing compensation. If delays or detours occur, the operators must inform the public in good time.
The SPÖ has made a special effort to ensure that there is also the possibility of compensation in the event of weather events. So that in cases of force majeure the entire risk is not passed on to the passengers. Barrier-free rail travel must also be improved. At large traffic junctions, it must be possible to take all passengers with you without a lead time.
Air transport is the farthest away from paying for the consequential costs it incurs, such as CO2 emissions and noise, and is subsidized directly and indirectly in a number of ways, for example by promoting airports or taxing kerosene and buying tickets.
A special challenge for consistent action at European level, however, is the much more international orientation in contrast to other modes of transport and an intensified competitive situation, e.g. vis-à-vis state-subsidized Gulf airlines.
This is why a joint approach within the international aviation organization ICAO makes particular sense. The EU must act as a strong player here in order to achieve ambitious CO2 reduction targets for the entire aviation industry. It was only through the EU that CORSIA was able to reach agreement at all. The EU is the most important and progressive global player in reducing emissions from the aviation sector.
This is also shown by the revision of the EU emissions trading system and new strict requirements for cars and trucks.
Furthermore, within the framework of the “Single European Sky” initiative, the EU is committed to overcoming the fragmentation of European airspace and supports numerous research and industry initiatives to make air traffic more sustainable and efficient.