A "Skeyes" and a Special Commissioner for rail freight
Bernard Gustin, CEO of Lineas, calls for the creation of a rail freight "Skeyes", with a special commissioner whose first urgent mission is to optimize rail traffic in Belgian ports
Brussels, 24 January 2023 - At the FEB event on Tuesday, Bernard Gustin, CEO of Lineas, made an urgent appeal for the creation of an autonomous body for rail freight, with priority given to the management of flows in Belgian ports.
Rail transport is set to grow by several percent in the next 5 years, mainly due to the climate emergency. The environmental awareness and the Fit for 55 ambitions of the European Union are pushing companies to decarbonize their supply chain. As rail remains the most efficient solution to reduce CO2 emissions from freight transport and emits almost 7 times less CO2 than road transport, it is very attractive for industries.
During the event organized on Tuesday by the Federation of Enterprises in Belgium (FEB), entitled "Rail - An essential player for our economic development" and which brought together the main players in Belgian rail freight and mobility, Bernard Gustin, CEO of Lineas, listed the main challenges facing the sector if it is to meet its ambitions to double its capacity by 2030.
- A level playing field
In terms of competition with other modes of transport, road freight, which is much more polluting than rail, benefits from an annual tax exemption on commercial diesel fuel amounting to 320 million euros. Regarding competition between rail operators, 100% private players such as Lineas are competing with public companies financially supported by their shareholder state.
- Incentives to switch to rail
The single wagon load (SWL) activity, which is essential for the competitiveness of companies operating on Belgian territory, cannot be operated profitably unless it is subject to prohibitive tariffs, with the consequence that client companies will eventually switch to the road (when they can) or leave the country to find the infrastructure and services they need elsewhere.
- Capacity management
Capacity and flow management is currently non-existent in national ports, which is an aberration compared to the air sector. The port of Antwerp-Bruges, Europe's 2nd largest port, has already reached an unprecedented level of congestion. Investments in digitalization must also be more effective if the sector is to catch up.
The CEO of Lineas, Europe's largest private rail freight operator, has strongly called for the creation of a rail freight "skeyes" on the model of what exists in the air sector, with the appointment of a special commissioner responsible for achieving the growth objectives of rail freight and whose first urgent mission is the optimization of traffic within our ports. His mandate should guarantee:
- Independence from the governments of today and tomorrow.
- The achievement of ambitious growth objectives for rail freight, a sector of strategic importance, which cannot afford short-term management, especially during the upcoming election period, which is known to lead to "business as usual" for several months.
- A holistic approach that reconciles public and private views and operations, understanding that rail operators and customers have profitability and competitiveness imperatives.
- Coordination of regional and federal initiatives and liaison between different governments.
- Working closely with the newly formed User Committee.
- Maintaining knowledge of a complex sector and the ability to provide successive governments with objective and independent information so that they can make the best choices in relation to other modes of transport and release the financial resources necessary to achieve the sector's ambitions.
- The implementation of a real employment policy attractive to rail freight.
1. The event was attended by P. Timmermans, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Mobility, G. Gilkinet, the CEO of Infrabel, B. Gilson, the Chairman of the Belgian Rail Freight Forum 2030, P. Hegge, the CEO of North Sea Port, D. Schalck, the Managing Director of the Belgian Rail Freight Association, and the Chairman of the Belgian Rail Freight Forum 2030. Schalck, Managing Director of Athus Terminal, K. Vanspringel, Managing Director of escenscia, Y. Verschueren, representatives of regional cabinets (E. Van den Brandt, Ph. Henry and L. Peeters).
2. Estimated by Febetra.
3. Autonomous public company whose mission is to ensure the safety of air traffic in the airspace for which Belgium is responsible.