NS ICNG at Rotterdam Centraal station (Photo NS)

NETHERLANDS: The European Commission says Dutch government plans to directly award state incumbent NS a 10-year public service contract to operate most passenger train services are not compliant with EU rules.

The Commission has opened an infringement procedure, saying the Netherlands has failed to correctly apply Regulation (EC) No 1370/2007 on public passenger transport by road and rail.

This regulation allows rail operating contracts to be directly awarded until December 24 2023. After that date contracts should be competitively tendered, with direct awards used only in limited circumstances.

The Commission said the long period between the last date for the award and the start of the contract on January 1 2025 ‘is without objective justification’ and ‘constitutes a circumvention of the principle of competitive award’.

On July 14 the Commission sent a letter of formal notice to the Netherlands, which has two months to address the issues raised. If the Commission does not get a satisfactory response, it may decide to issue a reasoned opinion, a formal request to comply with EU law within a specified period. If the Commission is not satisfied with the outcome, it may then decide to refer the country to the Court of Justice of the European Union.