Mid-term conference in Bautzen, Germany
On 07th November 2018, our Mid-term conference took place in Bautzen. After half the duration of our Interreg project, our partners came together to present and discuss the aspects and requirements of cross-border passenger transport services with stakeholders and the public administration on the one hand, but also with experts from transport planning and public transport operators on the other. This framework was also used to present the first results of our work, our regional action plans for the northern border triangle Lower Silesia, Liberec region and Saxony, and the southern border region of Carinthia and Koroška were outlined.
The event was conceived as a moderated panel discussion, moderated by Mr Steffen Nestler, Managing Director of LUB Consulting GmbH. Mr Nestler got an high expertise in the past years within different projects with cross-border traffic aspects and supported our conference from a technical point of view and he was also able to use his local knowledge.
Mr Alexander Ahrens, Lord Mayor of the City of Bautzen, dedicated the conference. He sees the growing together of European regions already in everyday situations due to Bautzen's geographical location and its historical development. Further integration of the regions, as well as the securing of mobility in the border triangle Mr Ahrens sees as a great potential to set economic impulses and strengthen regional development. Mrs Petra Ludewig, the representative of TRANS-BORDERS lead partner, welcomed the guests and gave an introduction into our project, the examined problems as well as the approach to make the cross-border passenger traffic attractive in the future.
Representing the border region of Carinthia and Koroška, Mr Roland Fercher and Mr Peter Zajc presented the planned measures of their regional action plan to the guests. They outlined problems of cross-border passenger services that encountered them in the past. For example, the bus connection between Klagenfurt (Austria) and Ljubljana (Slovenia) points out many of the problems that cross-border passenger transport encounters: Cheaper competitive offers, political obstacles and financing problems, long travel times and a lack of a joint marketing concept.
The subsequent round of talks offered the opportunity to discuss mistakes made during the introduction of the bus connection between Klagenfurt and Ljubljana. Mr Hans Schuschnig, Office of the Carinthian state government, concluded that in particular, the preparation time before the start of operations was not sufficiently long. The result was an immature operating concept and lack of marketing, which resulted in an emergency operation currently being carried out on this connection. Within TRANS-BORDERS, data are now to be collected which will flow into future planning. Peter Zajc, Regional development agency RRA Koroška, states that the same applies to another of our action plans. The train connection between Maribor and Klagenfurt is in a poor infrastructure. On both sides of the border, there is lobbying for funding necessary. However, TRANS-BORDERS is already helping here, especially by the development of the summer train along the Drau cycle path.
Mr Radim Šarapatka introduced our second investigated border region, the border triangle Lower Silesia, Liberec region and Saxony. He pointed out that similar problems occur here as in our other investigated region. Therefore, TRANS-BORDERS has to find generally valid solutions, which can be applied all over Europe. In terms of infrastructure, it is essential that the Liberec region should be connected to Dresden and Berlin via Görlitz. Görlitz should be in future a zero node in the border triangle from which attractive transfer connections can be created by the forthcoming electrification of rail tracks in eastern Germany.
Mr Šarapatka saw TRANS-BORDERS as an opportunity to raise awareness of this specific passenger traffic, which takes place primarily in the peripheral regions of the individual countries. To raise awareness the Transport agency KORID proposed a press trip in the border triangle could be possible. Efforts are also being made to reactivate previously closed railway lines.
Mr Christoph Mehnert, representative of the Transport Association Upper Lusatia / Lower Silesia, stated that the track from Dresden to Liberec in particular shows how cross-border cooperation could be. This railway could be integrated into a joint tender procedure. In the future, these experiences will have to be used as a baseline, that borders no longer represent barriers in the future.
Our goal is to look beyond the project area and learn from other regions with well-functioning cross-border traffic or from projects with similar tasks. We were very proud that we were able to attract a total number of four speakers for our conference who were able to present best practices and experiences:
Mr Ludger Sippel presented the study "Missing links" prepared on behalf of the European Commission. It is a comprehensive analysis of the existing cross-border rail transport connections and missing links within the EU and with Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. As a first step, the study provides an inventory of 365 cross-border rail connections along the EU and EFTA internal land borders, containing maps and data inter alia on the operational status, technical aspects and stakeholders of each connection. In a second step, the viability, network relevance and investment need and funding opportunities of possible new railway connections are analyzed. Finally, the study proposes recommendations on how to smoothen the implementation of cross-border railway connections. Mr Sippel concluded in his lecture that gaps in the cross-border passenger rail network are not necessarily caused by missing elements of infrastructure: In many cases, even on operational railway infrastructure there is a lack of cross-border passenger services and TRANS-BORDERS offers now the possibility to create a platform for future cooperation’s.
Quite similar to our issues, the EurekaRail project deals with improving the cross-border rail traffic in the Euroregion Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. EurekaRail wants to find solutions for five simple rail infrastructure bottlenecks and the introduction of a tariff that allows cross-border travel with one ticket at one price. At the end of the project, residents of the Euroregion should be able to travel more easily, comfortably and frequently between Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Subsequently, we offered another Interreg Central Europe project with parallels required to our research the opportunity to present: Peripheral Access. This project aims to improve the mobility of rural areas and border regions by promoting intermodal mobility, the use of intelligent communication technologies and the development of innovative marketing and governance approaches. Dr Georg Werdermann, Communications Manager of Peripheral Access, presented two case studies: The ideas for a multimodal transport node in a rural area and a bilingual marketing campaign for a cross-border regional railway connection.
During the panel, Trans Tritia project manager Ms Aleksandra Krawucka were given the possibility to share some experiences but also problems that they successfully solved. Trans Tritia is a ’European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation’ in which three regions of Poland, Slovakia and Czech Republic cooperate. They established and operate an expert platform consistently able to identify common priorities for infrastructure, transport and logistics solutions, to make transport networks, multi-modal logistic centres, and environmentally-friendly freight transport in their border territories more effective.
Due to the regional reference to the venue of our conference, it was our great interest to discuss the pilot project to of the rail connection Saxony - Lower Silesia in more detail. Mr Thomas Kocholl delivered an introductory lecture and presented different possibilities for improving the comfort of the railway connection from Dresden to Breslau against the background of the still missing electrification on the German side were examined (the track between Zgorzelec and Wrocław will be completely electrified until 2020). In this lecture the benefits concerning the electrification of railway tracks in terms of operating costs, travel time savings and the reduction of carbon dioxide compared to the status quo were highlighted.
Another problem is the discontinuation of the direct connection in December 2018. Now it is necessary to change to Wegliniec. Ms Anja Schmotz, Passenger association PRO BAHN, sees a decisive disadvantage of the train connection due to the changeover and the accompanying increase in travel time, which was already higher compared to car use. It should be achieved to make the change positively for passengers and to create additional offers for the passengers.
Ms Agnieszka Zakęś, representative of Lower Silesia Marshal Office and Mr Christoph Mehnert discussed, in particular, the possibilities of using dual-mode commuter railcars for cross-border traffic under the given circumstances. In particular, however, it should also be taken into account that new vehicles got licensed for all three neighbouring countries in order to ensure the most flexible use possible. Both stated that our project and the joint platform offered the opportunity to define the required criteria and to create good organizational conditions across countries.
We would like to thank our guests very much for their presence and active participation in the event as well as the numerous contributions by the speakers. Now our task is to incorporate the impressions gained in the second half of the project into our concepts in order to further strengthen mobility in the border regions of Central Europe.