Open Letter - Open letter to Council urging ambition in transforming rail into a customer-friendly sector

10.03.2015

The undersigned Associations support simple changes to the rail sector that will help the transition from monopoly service provider to a rail sector that is innovative, attractive and dynamic.

Rail does not exist in a vacuum. It competes with other modes, particularly road and aviation for customers.

Principles of transparency, non-discrimination and fair and equal access, that are taken for granted in the other modes of transport, have not yet been achieved in the rail sector.

A rail sector that obstinately refuses to adapt to a market driven view is one that loses market share to the road and aviation sectors, while wasting scarce public money instead of contributing to reach the EU modal shift targets.

For the sake of bringing rail into the modern transport world, the undersigned urge EU Member States to keep the package together and push through changes in the Market pillar of the 4Th Railway Package. More particularly we draw your attention to the following:

  • More cooperation and coordination in the rail sector

We strongly support the Coordination Committees, as envisaged by the original proposals in the 4th Railway Package, which bring together all the users, including the customers of the rail network to work together with the infrastructure manager in improving the performance and customer-orientation of the rail network.

The Coordination Committee is a chance to establish a platform for all users to advise the infrastructure manager on issues such as intermodality and the needs of users related to maintenance and development of infrastructure capacity.

We stress that today’s rail sector has moved beyond the interests of an incumbent providing a monopoly service , and is reliant on cooperation and coordination between the relevant actors in order to increase investment, efficiency, performance and growth.

  • A real level playing field for those that play by the rules

It is important that Member States are able to protect their own operators from unfair competition. The present court cases against Austria and Germany for failure to ensure financial transparency underline the importance of this principle.

The verification clause (Article 7c of the original Commission proposal) can be a powerful tool for Member States. It empowers Member States to close their markets should they have evidence to suggest that rail operators are competing with an unfair advantage over national operators.

We support that fair competition is the way forward for a healthy rail sector.

  • An infrastructure that supports efficient rail services

It is vital that customer choice should not be undermined by the structure of the railway sector: new entrants must not be inhibited, or their business prospects weakened, by monopolistic structures or even the potential for other discriminatory arrangements between infrastructure managers and incumbent railway undertakings.

It is for that reason that we support changes to strengthen the responsibilities of the infrastructure manager and to enhance its independence, in the interest of an open, competitive market.

Although it can be argued that outsourcing and contracting out of certain tasks is necessary, the essential necessities of infrastructure management must remain under the control of the infrastructure manager. This concerns not only allocation of capacity and charging of undertakings, but the full life cycle of investment, planning, maintenance and traffic management.

We thank you for the attention to our views.