The European rail supply industry is a diverse and geographically widespread industry – from thousands of SMEs to major industrial champions; from rail supplies in rolling stock to signalling systems (in particular ERTMS) and infrastructure. In total the European rail supply industry employs no less than 400 000 people all over Europe. With absolute sales of €47 billion, the European rail supply industry still accounts today for 46% of the market for rail products in the whole world. In this era of digitalization, the world leadership of this export-oriented industry is attributed primarily to its capacity to innovate, and the role played by SMEs is in this area, fundamental.
The good news for the European rail manufacturing industry is that demand for our products will continue to increase across all continents. According to the latest edition of the World Rail Market Study (published in September 2016), the market volume is set to increase by 2.6% a year and reach about €185 billion in 2021. These growth forecasts can be explained by an increased need for rail mobility brought about by the challenges of urbanisation, climate change or the scarcity of energy sources.
With the often indispensable support of policy makers, it is up to European companies to do their utmost to conquer these markets on a global scale. The challenge is considerable because our companies are faced with increasingly limited access to certain key external markets, while competition from Asia, especially China, is increasingly fierce in the so-called accessible market.
This worrisome situation was perfectly summed up in the European Parliament’s Resolution on the Competitiveness of the European Rail Supply Industry, adopted 9 June 2016. MEP’s noted specifically that “while the EU is largely open to competitors from third countries, third countries have several barriers in place that discriminate against the European RSI” and that “third-country competitors, especially from China, are expanding rapidly and aggressively into Europe and other world regions, often with strong political and financial support from their country of origin.”
As such, the European Parliament called for “a fair and level playing field in global competition and for reciprocal market access in order to avert the risk of job losses and to safeguard industrial know-how in Europe.” We are now looking forward to working with the European Commission, the European Parliament, Member States such as France, and industry stakeholders to ensure that the relevant recommendations from the European Parliament are put into place as soon as possible.