by Aad Veenman
The latest in a series of occasional essays published by the Community of European Railways & Infrastructure Companies, this short booklet looks at the thorny question of access to support services which do not form part of the core infrastructure but may sometimes be essential to train operations. These include such areas as the supply of traction current, shunting services, access to stations, freight terminals and maintenance facilities, or the provision of communications systems, information and technical inspections. The European Commission believes that the current legal framework does not give new entrants access to rail-related services under 'normal market conditions', and has opened a debate on whether further legislation is needed.
With two colleagues, Netherlands Railways' President Aad Veenman examines the key elements of Directive 2001/14, which outlines the principles of access to rail infrastructure and the related charging rules. He points out that different regimes in various member states mean that the infrastructure manager is not necessarily in a position to supply rail-related services, which in some cases may be provided by a dominant state-owned train operator. However, the directive should not be seen as applying only to the infrastructure managers, he says.
Although the directive requires that certain services must be supplied unless there are 'viable alternatives under market condition', Veenman notes that it is not clear whether rail-related services should be considered 'essential'. He suggests that some form of competition-based test is needed to identify where access should be imposed. In many cases, he argues, the emergence of third-party service providers is evidence of a proper market, which should be given time to develop and 'not be frustrated by fierce up-front regulation'.