Spanish, French and German trainsets at Paris Est.

EUROPE: New rules designed to create fairer conditions for access to rail infrastructure were adopted by the European Commission on April 7, and will come into force on December 1.

The Commission is concerned that EU rail markets are currently ‘characterised’ by dominant operators which may have close ties with infrastructure managers. This enables the dominant operator to block access to the infrastructure through the use of framework track access agreements with the infrastructure manager, which in some cases run for five or more years.

The new rules are intended to provide operators seeking to run new services with a better chance of gaining access to the network. The Commission believes this would create new opportunities for employment and investment and make the rail market more competitive and responsive to changing customer needs.

Under the new rules, interested companies must be informed about available capacity and opportunities to conclude contracts. There are common criteria for concluding and modifying agreements in the event of conflicting requests, and a requirement for infrastructure managers to check regularly whether their clients still need specific paths.

‘Today's adoption is a step in the right direction in order to make railways more efficient in Europe’, said Violeta Bulc, European Commissioner for Transport. ‘The new framework agreements will give new entrants 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.’

  • On April 7 the European Commission said EU negotiators were expected to finalise discussions on the Fourth Railway Package ‘in the coming weeks’.