ERFA: discrimination remains in European freight
The European Rail Freight Assocation (ERFA) says discrimination ‘still exists’ in the rail freight sector which is preventing new operators gaining a market foothold. While cautiously welcoming the European Commission’s (EC) recent draft act on access to service facilities and rail-related services, it says the market is still dominated by state-owned companies and subsidaries.
ERFA, which represents the interests of new entrants in the rail market, said it very much welcomed the draft plan, which was designed to address concerns raised by many small railway undertakings from both the freight and passenger sectors. Ensuring a non-discriminatory, transparent and fair access to facilities is one of the prime conditions needed for developing an open rail market and to improve rail’s competitiveness.
“By introducing transparent access conditions, pricing and clear procedures for handling requests and solving conflicts, the implementing act will optimise the effective use of facilities for all railway undertakings,” says ERFA in a statement. “It will help facility operators to accommodate all requests through a transparent and proactive coordination process, avoiding long appeal procedures to the Regulator.”
But, ERFA adds, the market is still dominated by incumbent operators and state-owned companies, many of which have inherited key assets from their former monopolies. Many facilities are often managed by sister companies, being part of one and the same holding company as the incumbent railway undertakings.
“Consequently, there is strong evidence that discriminatory practices still exist in the facility market, e.g higher charges, refusal of the access by pretending that the facility is full, and the intentional low quality of services, which provide a competitive advantage to their ‘own’ operator.
“ERFA is convinced that an implementing act is now needed in order to best implement EU rules on access to service facilities in all member states. It should bring a transparent and predictable framework for all companies, and give all the necessary tools to the regulatory bodies in order to best ensure that the facility market is fully functioning in a non-discriminatory manner,” it adds.
The full ERFA response is available to download.