New EC rules to access European rail infrastructure

The European Commission has introduced new rules to give independent train providers better and fairer access to rail infrastructure within the EU. They take effect on 1 December 2016.

The ruling will have little impact in Great Britain – England, Scotland & Wales – where infrastructure management and rail operations have been totally separated since privatisation, and where the incumbent operator (formerly British Rail) has been abolished.

However the British model is unique:  In the rest of Europe the incumbent state-owned national operators remain even where the infrastructure management has been devolved to separate infrastructure bodies.

The EC says the incumbent operators can dominate their national markets for many years by negotiating framework agreements with the infrastructure managers (providers), blocking new entrants from gaining access. The new EC rules (introduced on April 7) include an obligation on the infrastructure managers to provide details of spare capacity on their networks.

EC Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc said: “Today’s adoption is a step in the right direction in order to make railways more efficient in Europe. The new framework agreements will give new entrants a better and fairer access to the rail infrastructure, offering them additional visibility and thereby fostering investments. These new agreements will also optimise the use of the rail infrastructure in Europe.”


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