Friday, September 29, 2017

Rail Freight Group Says New Rules Will Aid Smaller Track Borne Cargo Carriers

Transparency However Must be Supported by Regulators
Shipping News Feature
EUROPE – Accusations of anti-competitive practices have long been the norm in the world of European rail freight. Governments are frequently accused of turning a blind eye to illegal transfer of funds between track managers and rolling stock operators and public money supporting state rail groups to the detriment of independent cargo carriers, whilst routes see preferential treatment for such operations. Now the European Rail Freight Association (ERFA) has praised new legislation it says was adopted this week which it feels can redress the situation.

The ERFA represents rail newcomers and many rail companies offering international rail services, who are naturally not in a position to own the very many rail facilities they need access to in order to run their services. They are therefore often reliant on access to third-party facilities, many of which are owned by the incumbent operators or companies closely linked to them.

Non-discriminatory access to rail facilities, be it a freight terminal, a port, a maintenance facility or a passenger station, is therefore essential for any railway undertaking wanting to run a rail service in Europe and this principle is in fact already enshrined in EU law. The ERFA points out that the reality is that in some Member States the facilities market is too often working to shut competition out and not to support a dynamic and thriving rail sector where concerns over artificial saturation of capacity, intentional low quality of services and overly high and discriminatory prices prevail.

The ERFA has thanked the European Commission for its work in addressing how the facilities market can better support rail’s competitiveness, but sounds a guarded note intimating that it is up to the various rail regulators to ensure that the rules translate into actions. It goes on to say that the obligation for rail facility operators to publish basic information on the services they are providing together with the conditions for accessing the facility is a big step forward.

The new transparency conditions for coordinating all requests for access, if applied correctly and including where there are conflicting requests, will help ensure an optimal use of capacity in the facilities. The ERFA feels the new rules have found a good balance between limiting the unnecessary burden on smaller facilities and creating a more attractive business environment for rail newcomers and those operating cross-border services.