Under the terms of Council Directive 91/440 railway undertakings are entitled to limited access and transit rights across the frontiers of member states. The directive provides for rights of access and transit for international services operated by international groupings of railway undertakings and for railway undertakings operating international combined transport goods services.
The access provisions of the directive were transposed into Irish law by Statutory Instrument 204 of 1996. Two further directives have been adopted supplementing Directive 91/440. These relate to the licensing of railway undertakings, the allocation of rail infrastructure capacity and the charging of fees for infrastructure use. Both of these directives are due to come into force on 28 June 1997. The method of transposing these directives into Irish law is being examined by my Department in consultation with the Attorney General.
I am not aware of any approach by outside operators to provide services on Irish railway systems to date. However, whether other rail operators avail of access to the Irish rail network the fact is that Iarnród Éireann is certain to face intensified competition from alternative modes including the private car and private road freight and bus operators. It is essential, therefore, that Iarnród Éireann takes the necessary steps now to ensure it can meet this intensified competition.