Fine Gael MEP Colm Markey has slammed a proposal for Ireland to sign up to a standardised European Rail Traffic Management System, which could cost at least €200m.
The main aim of the ERTMS is to promote interoperability of trains across the EU and involves replacing national signalling equipment and operational procedures with a single new Europe-wide standard for train control and command systems. A revision of the Trans-European Transport Network last year called for ERTMS to be deployed on the entire network by 2040.
Markey, who sits on the European Parliament’s Transport Committee, said it’s crazy that an island nation would be forced to be part of the system.
He commented, “Ireland has an isolated rail network with no connections to continental Europe and no plans for future routes. Up until now, we have been exempt from these types of requirement and future investments are planned on that basis. The Ten-T revision is deeply concerning as the new rules will provide absolutely no interoperability benefit to Ireland. Instead, it will involve costly large-scale upgrades that will entail significant disruptions to services, delays to ongoing projects and put planned investments into doubt.
It’s estimated that replacing equipment across the Irish network could cost at least €200 million euro. Surely, that money could be better spent. We don’t have a rail link to our main airport, towns across the country are cut off from the network and there’s very little connectivity in the north west yet we want to invest hundreds of millions in a system that provides no benefit to us? It’s madness.”
The Midlands-North-West MEP plans to raise the matter at EU level.
“I will be bringing this up at the earliest opportunity in the Transport Committee and will be seeking answers from the Commissioner for Transport. A derogation would be welcome but these are usually just temporary so the uncertainty would continue in the years ahead. I will be looking for Ireland to be totally exempt from these plans. A standardised rail traffic management system makes perfect sense on mainland Europe where thousands of trains cross borders every day but not in Ireland. It’s completely unreasonable”, he concluded.