Freight train in Netherlands, source: ProRail

Rail operators fear high railway rates in the Netherlands from 2023

Rail freight operators fear that from 2023 onwards, the track access charges in the Netherlands will be higher than those in neighboring countries. In particular, the user charges for sidings and shunting tracks may skyrocket. Dutch infrastructure manager ProRail has commented that the new calculations actually ensure that the rates are more harmonised with other countries.

ProRail has presented a proposal for the Minimum Access Package Fee (VMT) from 2023 to rail operators. “We are harmonising the user fee. Other countries are already charging the actual cost, which we are not currently doing. We want to change that”, said ProRail spokesman Coen van Kranenburg. He indicates that the infra manager is thus following European legislation.

In a letter to State Secretary of Infrastructure Stientje van Veldhoven, interest group RailGood has raised the concern of the rail freight industry over the charges. The letter states that the current approach of ProRail “does not lead to harmonisation of the VMT usage fee of ProRail with that of the German infra manager DB Netze”. Rail freight operators would like the tariffs to be closer to those of Germany, the main competitor for Dutch rail freight transport. Indeed, freight operators have previously asked ProRail to apply the DB Netze calculation method in the Netherlands.

German calculation method

ProRail confirms that it initially opted for the German calculation method, but later deviated from it. Van Kranenburg: “We made calculations according to the German method and presented them to the carriers. Various carriers indicated that they are not in favor of it, because they would make rail transport more expensive. In addition, there would be too much segmentation. ” According to him, both the reactions of rail freight operators and those of passenger transporters were included in this consideration.

According to RailGood, the method of calculating the Minimum Access Package Fee (VMT) currently does not correspond to that of neighboring countries and does not appear to change from 2023 onwards. The interest group made a comparison in which the VMT of Germany and the Netherlands were compared in different weight classes in 2020 and 2021. Similar differences are also likely to arise before 2023, according to the industry association.

Numbers

Based on its own figures, RailGood concludes that the VMT is “more than twice as high as that of DB Netze” for the vast majority of freight trains. “Particularly for intermodal transport (containers, trailers, swap bodies), block trains with general cargo (such as automotive) and wet bulk and car freight transport.”

ProRail does not want to respond substantively to the calculations presented by RailGood, but indicates that it “hears the concerns of the freight operators”. “We understand that they are concerned about this. We pick up on those signals and we continue to discuss them. If adjustments need to be made, we adjust. At the same time, we do say that this part of the user fee is only part of the total price. We are convinced that as a total picture we offer something good to the freight transporters. And that is important to us, because they are our customers. ”

Both ProRail and RailGood back up their arguments with international benchmarks, in which the Netherlands scores well according to some, while it does the opposite according to other European countries.

Installation sites

ProRail is currently working on the pricing of other services within the user fee, including the user fee for shunting and sidings. According to RailGood, a first stakeholder session showed that these charges were being pushed “to unreasonable heights”. According to the organisation, this is not desirable because the carriers have based the prices on “the kilometer price of using the railway infrastructure”.

Changing the rates for sidings and shunting services is, according to ProRail, a way to work more efficiently. “There are many siding areas which see high traffic rates. With this method we try to gain more insight into what is really needed in infrastructure. For us it is an optimisation of business operations. We want to know what is needed and where to invest.”

“Because no compensation is paid for actual use, trains are parked in certain places, possibly for a week. As a result, sometimes very expensive parking options are used, while this may not be necessary. As a railway manager, we want to have more influence on this.”

Increased costs

RailGood says that with the current approach, the costs of using rail for freight will increase rather than decrease. However, according to the interest group, a decrease was promised by the minister in a measurement package, presented to the House of Representatives on 19 June 2018 and to the coalition agreement on 10 October 2017.

To prevent ProRail from submitting a “method for determining the VMT usage fee to ACM for assessment, without proper discussion with the rail freight operators,” RailGood wants the minister to interfere with the rates. The organisation asks her to enter into a discussion with the management of ProRail, and in particular about the costs for the siding and marshalling tracks.

Author: Marieke van Gompel

Marieke van Gompel is editor of RailFreight.com and chief editor of the ProMedia Group online magazines.

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