ADIF locomotive at Tarragona station

‘Rise Spanish track access charges could harm rail freight market’

The Spanish Anti-Trust Authority (CNMC) has requested the Spanish infrastructure manager ADIF to review its proposal to increase the track access charges in 2028. It concluded that it had not consulted the market sufficiently, while the impact could be great.

ADIF has proposed to hike the track access charges in Spain from the current 0.2043 euro/km in to 4.5618 euro/km in 2028, an increase of 22 times. The new fee is based on a track use cost by rail freight operators of 116.4 million Euros. With the new charge, these costs are covered completely.

Impact on Spanish rail freight

CNMC noted that the cost estimate is clear and with a solid calculation method, but criticised that ADIF had not had enough meetings with rail freight operators to consider their opinion. The gradual rise can impact on a healthy development of the Spanish rail freight industry, which currently only holds a 4.6 per cent market share in the domestic transport market. This is a small share compared to the 12-15 per cent average in the EU, according to CNMC.

As a result, CNMC asks ADIF to have at least two meetings with all rail freight operators active on the Spanish market and consider their feedback before launching the final proposal. In addition, it asked the infrastructure manager to establish a refund and bonus system to avoid that these fees can be a barrier to the development of the rail freight industry. Based on these findings, ADIF should come up with competitive charges, which do not place the weight of infrastructure maintenance costs on rail freight operators.

Market response

Several rail freight operators active on the Spanish market have expressed their satisfaction with the CNMC statements, despite the fact that the meetings may delay a definitive charge proposal, which is a priority to establish clear rules of the game in the rail freight industry.

European lobby organisation for the rail industry ERFA commented: “Track access charges make up a high proportion of rail freight undertakings’ costs. Therefore, every increase has to be planned in a way that is sustainable for the rail sector and especially to take into account rail’s competitiveness with other modes of transport.” The Brussels-based organisation added that of the propose increase is implemented, this would cause “irreparable harm to the entire competitiveness of the rail freight sector”.

Author: Jose Gutierrez

Jose Gutierrez is RailFreight's correspondent in Spain.

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