The rail market remains an unattractive environment for private investment due in part to the barriers faced by many newcomers to the sector. Despite the EU’s successive liberalisation reforms, in many EU countries basic market access barriers remain for private rail companies or even state-owned incumbents operating outside of their home territory. Fair framework conditions are crucial for supporting rail’s growth and ability to deliver on the ambitious EU modal shift targets. ERFA works to root out remaining anti-competitive practices and any discriminatory barriers for rail companies seeking to offer new routes and services.
Top 5 ERFA priorities to remove market access barriers:
Non-discriminatory access to Rail Facilities
Many private rail companies are not in a position to own all the facilities they need access to. In some EU countries the facilities market is too often working to shut competition out and not to support a dynamic and thriving rail sector. ERFA plays a leading role to tackle problems of artificial saturation of capacity, intentional low quality of services and overly high and discriminatory prices.
Removing national technical rules
ERFA fully supports the work of the European Agency for Railways in removing unnecessary national rules, a legacy of outdated protectionist national rail systems. National technical rules are responsible for increasing the burden and costs for rail companies, without necessarily contributing to a safer railway. Simplifying requirements, while upholding safety, improving cost efficiency of rail operations and unlocking the potential for cross-border operations are the key objectives.
Single safety certification and vehicle authorisation
Unnecessary delays to authorisations, additional changes needed to accommodate specific networks, and high costs – all contribute to deterring operators from serving new markets or even entering the market. We count on the new powers of the European Agency for Railways for authorising safety certificates and vehicles to speed up and remove discriminatory practices in accessing the market.
Implementation of independence, non-discriminatory and financial transparency obligations of the infrastructure manager
ERFA believes that full separation between infrastructure management and rail operations is the most effective way to create a level playing field between all railway undertakings; end the dominant position of one big player (normally the historic operator) and foster the right conditions for a more customer-orientated infrastructure management. Ensuring proper implementation of key EU rules is essential.
Abuse of dominant position or illegal use of state aid
Public funds should be used to stimulate investments, and not to constrain growth in the sector ( via e.g cross subsidisation). Incumbent operators should not abuse their dominant position to stifle the few competitors on the market. ERFA supports the on-going work of EU competition authorities to root out basic competition problems in the rail sector, where current EU rules continue to leave loopholes.