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European rail conference attendees stress sustainable transport system challenges

On Friday, about 200 representatives from European railroads, infrastructure companies and industries attended a conference on railways and the environment in Berlin. The event included presentations on strengthening European railroads to meet the challenges of establishing a sustainable transport system on the continent in the face of plans to enlarge the European Union (EU).

Railroads play an important role for the union's new member states, including the Czech Republic, said Miroslav Ouzk, a Czech native and vice president of the European parliament, according to a prepared statement.

"The market share in passenger and freight in central and eastern Europe is twice as high as in the [original] European Union," he said. "The investment question is crucial for the expansion of rail."

Railways are committed to improving service in all sectors, but the industry needs prices that reflect transport market costs, said Johannes Ludewig, executive director of the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER).

"Everyone talks about wanting to achieve modal shift, but nothing happens," he said. "If the costs and price structures do not change and we do not create a level playing field, we will never achieve change and progress."

Although the continent needs to establish a sustainable transport system, the need is not limited to Europe, said Philippe Roumeguère, chief executive officer of the International Union of Railways.

"With a view to growing transport demand in countries like China and India, it is clear that there is a global need for ambitious action plans and decisions," he said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 11/23/2004