The EU’s current long-term plan for high-speed rail is unlikely to be achieved and there is no solid EU-wide strategic approach, according to a new report from the European Court of Auditors. The European high-speed rail network, say the auditors, is only a patchwork of national lines without proper coordination across borders, planned and built by Member States in isolation, resulting in poor connections. The European Commission has no legal tools and no powers in the decision making to ensure that Member States make rapid progress towards completing the core network.
Since 2000, the EU has provided €23.7 billion of co-funding to support investments in high-speed rail lines. The auditors visited six Member States (France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Portugal and Austria) and analysed spending on more than 5,000 km of high-speed lines, covering around 50% of the EU total. They found that although the length of national high-speed rail networks is growing, the EU target of tripling the length of high-speed rail lines (to 30,000 km) by 2030 will not be reached.
“An ineffective patchwork of poorly connected national lines has been constructed”, said Oskar Herics, the Member of the European Court of Auditors responsible for the report. “High-speed lines crossing national borders do not rank among national priorities for construction and the Commission has no power to enforce them. This means the added value of EU co-funding is low”.