Freight yard (Photo: DB).

EUROPE: Financial support for single wagon traffic could play an important role in achieving EU modal shift targets, but it must be focused on last-mile services and avoid distorting the market for services which are viable without support, according to the European Rail Freight Association.

‘The upcoming revision of the state aid guidelines for railway undertakings will play an important role in setting the conditions for any aid for specific rail freight operations’, said ERFA Secretary General Conor Feighan on February 7. ‘It is essential that the revised guidelines clearly limit the scope of any financial aid whilst also establishing safeguards which will protect competition within the rail freight sector.’

ERFA said public service obligations for single wagon traffic would be possible, but these should be tendered transparently and regularly in order to assure maximum efficiency and neutrality.

It said financial aid granted for single wagon traffic would mostly go to activities undertaken by national incumbents, and so it must be organisationally and financially separated from other services to avoid distorting competition between incumbents and newer entrants.

ERFA said financial aid should be limited as much as possible, and targeted where there is a sectoral benefit which incentivises volume growth and modal shift from road. Aid should stimulate efficiencies and facilitate possible co-operation between railway operators to avoid redundancies; ERFA said it should ‘definitely not’ support inefficient practices.

Direct aid to specific rail operators should be avoided, and mechanisms should be non-discriminatory and offered to all market players. ‘An artificial transfer of today’s block train volumes back to subsidised single wagonload traffic is not acceptable’, said ERFA.