(Strasbourg) Opening the industry to the private sector in all the member states and increasing competitiveness: these are two of the principles that have inspired the new railway transport rules that will be discussed today as soon as the plenary session of the European Parliament opens in Strasbourg (12-15 December) and that will be voted on Wednesday. The aim is to develop an assumedly fast and environmentally-friendly transport system as much as possible. Firstly, the idea is to make “any EU railway company have access to domestic markets and be able to do business on passenger railway lines”. Competition should lead to better services and lower costs. “However, to make sure the services provided – as stated in a notice by the European Parliament – under public agreements are retained, the national authorities can restrict access to new providers in some railway lines only”. This is the “Fourth Railway Package”: such measures “will make access easier for national railway networks; in addition, all industry companies will have better access to public tenders”. Currently, there are 215 thousand km of railways (five times round the world), with 570 thousand staff, accounting for 5% of the EU’s GDP, in Europe. In the 27 EU member states, there are 804 providers.