One of my repeated frustrations when working on railway policy in the European Union is how imprecise and woolly the communication from policy makers in the area is. This is in particular the case when European Commissioner for Transport Adina-Ioana Vălean talks about railways.
So as ChatGPT is now available to the general public, I thought I would test it – how well can it draft a speech about railway policy for the Commissioner?
The answer you can find below. As anyone who has had to sit through a Vălean speech can testify, in terms of how the argument is built this is more coherent and logically structured than the Commissioner would be in reality. There are a few factual errors in here (highlighted and commented by me in red) and anyone with any specialist knowledge would spot these, and for the moment that is the shortcoming of this tool.
That a machine is capable of this does not really worry me too much. That we are so used to anodyne generic and uninspiring talks from EU policymakers ought to be the real concern here!
The task for ChatGPT:
Write a 500 word speech for European Commissioner for Transport Adina Valean about the challenges facing European railways. The speech is for members of the TRAN Committee in the European Parliament.
The response from ChatGPT:
Good afternoon, members of the TRAN Committee. It is a pleasure to be here today to discuss the challenges facing European railways and the important role that rail transport plays in the future of mobility in Europe.
The railway sector has been undergoing significant changes in recent years. With the growing demand for sustainable and efficient transport, it is more important than ever that we modernize and improve our rail systems. At the same time, we face numerous challenges in achieving this goal, including increased competition from other modes of transport, insufficient investment, and complex regulations.
One of the biggest challenges facing European railways is the lack of a seamless, integrated network. Despite the creation of the single market for rail services (this one would have been phrased differently – Single European Rail Area for example), there are still significant differences in the level of service and quality of infrastructure between member states. This hinders the development of an efficient and attractive rail network, which is essential for rail to remain competitive in the long term.
Another challenge is the need for investment in new technology and infrastructure. With the rise of electric and autonomous vehicles, it is important that the railway sector keeps pace with technological advancements. This requires significant investment in new infrastructure, such as high-speed rail lines and digital networks, as well as the development of new technologies, such as smart ticketing systems and energy-efficient trains (this last point is a little strange).
In addition, the regulatory environment for rail transport remains complex and fragmented, making it difficult for rail companies to operate effectively across borders. This is particularly challenging for smaller operators, who often lack the resources to navigate the regulatory maze. The European Commission is working to simplify the regulatory environment and promote a level playing field for all rail companies, but more work is needed to achieve this goal.
Despite these challenges, the future of rail transport in Europe is promising. With the right investments and policies in place, rail has the potential to become a leading mode of transport, providing sustainable and efficient mobility for millions of Europeans.
The Commission is committed to supporting the development of an integrated and sustainable railway network in Europe. Through the Connecting Europe Facility and the Trans-European Transport Network, we are investing in new infrastructure and technology to support the growth of the rail sector.
We are also working to simplify the regulatory environment and promote a level playing field for all rail companies. This includes the revision of the First Railway Package (well that has long been revised! And revisions of the Fourth Railway Package are not, as such, on the cards at the moment) and the development of a European railway agency (well that does exist!), which will provide a single point of contact for rail companies and ensure the consistent application of EU rules across the network.
In conclusion, the railway sector faces significant challenges, but with the right investments and policies, rail transport has the potential to become a leading mode of transport in Europe. The Commission is committed to supporting the development of a modern, integrated and sustainable railway network, and I look forward to working with the TRAN Committee to achieve this goal.
Thank you for your attention.