Germany may increase track access charges in next timetable

Track access charges in Germany may increase in the upcoming timetable. A standard freight train will have to pay 3.05 euros per kilometer from 13 December, the start of timetable 2020/2021. This is 2.3 percent more than what is charged at the moment. This was approved by the Federal Network Agency this week. The Network of European Railways (NEE) is surprised about the price increase. “This does not fit into the current landscape.”

This was the response uttered by Peter Westenberger, managing director of the European lobby organisation. “Even when the corona crisis is over, the industry will still have to deal with its consequences.” The NEE therefore calls on DB Netz AG and the federal government to discuss how the train path price increase could be avoided.

Support in vain

“We propose that the federal supervisory board representatives allow DB Netz AG to forego planned profits”, says Westenberger. “It is absurd that the federal government provides 350 million euros annually to subsidise track access charges, but these funds are eaten up by price increases permitted by regulatory law.”

Indeed, Germany has an aid scheme in place meant to compensate rail freight operators for up to 45 per cent of their track access charges. The scheme is called TraFöG, translated ‘price support for freight traffic’ and has been in place retroactively per 1 July 2018. To this end, the ministry supports the sector with a budget of 375 million Euros per calendar year, a fund available until 30 June 2023 and evaluated in 2021.

Regulation redesigned

According to Westenberger, the approval of the Federal Network Agency shows once again that the entire route price determination in railway regulation law has to be redesigned. “Nobody can see the tangle of exceptions and individual decisions anymore.”

Tuesday’s decision by the Federal Network Agency is subject to an amendment to the law for local rail transport. Another example is the service and financing agreement between the federal government and DB AG (LuFV III), which was recently adopted with a lot of advance laurels, and which could indirectly increase train path prices in the coming years even more than before.

Encourage modal shift

From the association’s point of view, the legal framework for train path pricing must be designed in such a way that it supports the federal government’s transport and climate policy objectives, namely shifting traffic from road to rail.

Therefore, rail and truck tolls would have to be viewed in parallel, as in Switzerland, to give an incentive to transport more by rail. In addition, the track access charges should motivate to use the valuable rail infrastructure more intensively and to operate it as efficiently as possible.

Author: Majorie van Leijen

Majorie van Leijen is editor of RailFreight.com, online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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