High Speed rail: ineffective patchwork

Since 2000, the EU has been investing €23.7 billion into high speed rail infrastructure. There is no realistic long term EU plan for high speed rail, but an ineffective patchwork of national lines not well linked since the European Commission has no legal tools and no powers to force Member States to build lines as agreed.

Cost-efficiency is at stake, because not everywhere very high speed lines are needed, as the cost per minute of saved travel time is very high, going up to €369 million, and as the average speeds only amount to 45 % of the maximum capacity, while cost overruns and construction delays are the norm rather than the exception.

Sustainability is low, effectiveness of the investments is lacking and EU added value is at risk with three out of seven completed lines having low passenger numbers leading to a high risk of ineffective spending of €2.7 billion EU co-funding. Moreover, nine out of 14 lines and stretches have insufficient high numbers of passengers, and 11 000 national rules still exist, although the Court already asked in 2010 to lift these technical and administrative barriers.

Press release of the European Court of Auditors (Guardians of the EU finances), 26 June 2018. You can download the report from there.