EU Rail Reforms and Cross Border Passenger Rail Services - A Paradox? Developments Affecting and Potential Wider Insights from the UK’s First Cross Border Route



EU Rail Reforms and Cross Border Passenger Rail Services - A Paradox? Developments Affecting and Potential Wider Insights from the UK’s First Cross Border Route

Authors

Austin Smyth, University of Hertfordshire, Luke Kelleher, University of Hertfordshire

Description

This paper provides detailed consideration of the challenges faced by the UK's first cross border rail line

Abstract

EU Rail Reforms and Cross Border Passenger Rail Services - A Paradox? Developments affecting and Potential Wider Insights from the UK’s First Cross Border Route
Austin Smyth*, Edward Humphreys** and Luke Kelleher***

Notwithstanding the increasingly liberalisation of railways in the EU, in particular reforms under the Third and Fourth Railway Package, the countries of Europe from the Baltic and Atlantic to the Adriatic and the Aegean have experienced many instances of declining cross border rail services and in some cases complete cessation of cross border passenger trains. These have occurred for a variety of reasons, prompted by economic developments, changes in the market and competitive pressures, regulatory reforms as well as political factors.
The UK’s HS1 (and associated train services) that have benefitted from the EU railway reforms in linking London to Paris and Brussels is widely acknowledged to have had a significant beneficial impact on the economy of South East England. However, HS1 was not the UK’s first cross border rail route. Since 1921 the rail service between Belfast in Northern Ireland and Dublin in the Republic of Ireland provided the UK’ s first cross border rail service. The intervening decades have witnessed several periods of improvement to the service up to the early 1950’s and more recently in the late 90’s but since 2000 the route has been in long term decline in competitiveness as an intercity route.
In late 2015 this came to a head with Irish Rail, the state owned carrier in the Republic of Ireland, which jointly operates the route with its Northern Ireland counterpart announcing potential timetable proposals for all services operating south of the border which would have the effect of further downgrading the cross border service to the point where journey times would extend to those offered in the 1940’s. Currently this proposal has stalled in response to the issues addressed in the Third and Fourth Rail Packages. The proposal from the Republic of Ireland’s carrier has also prompted concern being expressed locally and at an intergovernmental level by Northern Ireland’s devolved administration’s Executive and Assembly.

This paper considers the challenges faced by the route in terms of competitive pressures, public funding for state owned carriers in both jurisdictions, the suppression of travel arising from a political border with the prospect^ of Brexit

(The UK leaving the EU) further dampening the market and the legacy of political unrest which had a major impact through to 2000. Against the backdrop of the EU reform packages attention is given to the impact of domestic political pressures on either side of the border for a focus on short haul services operating at either ends of a route that currently has important capacity constraints and other infrastructure challenges. The paper also attempts to identify the potential of the route and the role EU market reforms and liberalisation could play in realising that potential and how Brexit could impact on this.

at the time of writing the abstract February 2016
* University of Hertfordshire ** Independent Rail Consultant *** University College Dublin

Publisher

Association for European Transport