- The EU Commissioner for Transport wants to create a continent wide rail network.
- Many national rail networks are currently incompatible with those in other countries.
- The Commissioner wants to encourage state cooperation to improve cross border networks.
As European countries upgrade their national railways, the European Union's transport commissioner is urging closer ties to ease travel across borders -- and promote economic growth.
High speed rail lines are already in place in Germany, France and Spain, with plans for fast rail in other European nations.
But given the hodgepodge nature of track formation across the continent -- with different technologies and standards in individual countries -- few networks can operate across national borders.
Siim Kallas, Europe's transport chief, believes turning this around is central to the continent's future development.
As it stands "we have a patchwork of national projects," he says. "We want to create more network .... [with] better east-west connections, interoperability and less fragmented investments."
Kallas cites the potential for increased economic activities between European nations, more energy efficient transport and less pressure on air and road systems as the main benefits of a continent-wide rail project.
But while bullish about the benefits such an ambitious project can create, Kallas remains fully aware of the challenges that must first be met, particularly given Europe's economic problems.
Budgetary problems create the possibility of some European nations going it alone in developing their own rail networks or even delaying or abandoning projects they had previously committed to, he says.
Kallas is hopeful European transport will remain on the right track -- if the EU continues to oil the wheels of cooperation.