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The Fourth Railway Package:

The Next Stop on the Journey to Liberalisation

Carole Maczkovics


After four years of lively debates, the fourth railway package has eventually been adopted in 2016. It contains a 'technical pillar' recasting the Interoperability and Safety Directives and amending the Regulation on the European Railway Agency's powers. These new provisions should cut red-tape and progressively lift technical barriers for the development of European railway services. The package also includes the much more controversial 'market pillar', amending the Public Service Obligation Regulation and the Directive establishing a Single European Railway Area. These new provisions introduce competition both in and for domestic passenger transport services, as well as detailed governance rules for infrastructure managers. This paper argues that the long standing legislative process focused more on reducing the European Commission's rather rigid proposals than on identifying and addressing the cause for the relatively poor modal share retained by the railways. As a result, the fourth railway package may well be only the next stop on the journey to liberalisation.

Carole Maczkovics is a lawyer at the Brussels Bar. The author wishes to thank Louise Huson and the peer reviewers for their valuable comments as well as Linus Hoet for his help describing the novelties of the fourth railway package. The views expressed are solely of the author. For correspondence: <>. DOI: 10.21552/core/2017/2/5


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