Railway associations ask for international capacity management

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The Railway Undertakings associations ERFA, FTE and ALLRAIL, proposed establishing specific commercial conditions and an International Body of Compliance to harmonise and control international rail freight traffic and capacity.

“Customer-oriented capacity management is a key to rail freight’s success. The same applies to overseeing possible disputes,” explains the European Rail Freight Association (ERFA). For this purpose, RU’s from the sector established a position on the desirable commercial conditions that will ensure that the lack of capacity will not hinder rail freight operations and that RUs will acquire the needed space to fulfil their customers’ needs.

On the other hand, they proposed that an International Body of Compliance be formed. Its mission will be to monitor and “oversee disputes”. At the same time, it will be “neutral from Railway Undertakings and Infrastructure Managers and comply to capacity processes agreed upon within the EU law”.

Fixed commercial conditions

“We have to use and manage the existing infrastructure capacity in the best possible way if we want to achieve the expected growth for rail freight. This means we have to implement the right incentives for both Railway Undertakings and Infrastructure Managers. In monitoring that capacity management, an international dimension is essential for rail freight in monitoring that capacity management as over half of all rail freight volumes in Europe pass at least one border,” comments Dirk Stahl, president of ERFA.

Implementing the right incentives for RUs and IMs is the key in this case. This is what the associations mean when referring to creating the desirable commercial conditions for rail freight. “In most cases of the IM changing already committed paths, the RUs and their customers have to take all the burden. To provide the right incentives to all partners in capacity management, the Railway Undertakings ask for market-oriented and harmonised reciprocal commercial conditions,” explained in a joint statement FTE, ERFA and ALLRAIL.

Moreover, they underlined that the commercial conditions should “provide an incentive for all parties, RUs and IMs, to stick to commitments made, by following the principles below:

  • European harmonised timeline and mechanism (for domestic and international trains) that shall support the unified process and the business needs
  • Reciprocity, meaning RUs and IMs pay incentive fees when cancelling/ modifying/ altering at these standard timelines.
  • Bearable fees, fees should stimulate capacity friendly behaviour and at the same time avoid economic downturns.
  • Simple, fair and transparent, meaning the mechanism should be universal (national and international, no matter the segment or product).

A neutral monitoring body

For all these to be implemented correctly and without prejudice, associations urge to establish an international body of compliance that will ensure the enforcement of relevant EU laws and monitor the compliance of RUs and IMs. According to them, This international body shall be:

  • Independent from organisations involved in the capacity allocation process (RUs and IMs).
  • A solution provider for RUs and IMs when timetables are not aligned anymore to find market-oriented options.
  • Relevant at all stages of capacity allocation.
  • Equipped with the necessary decision-making power to enforce agreed processes and applicable EU law and the alignment of capacity planning
  • Mandated to organise transparency in capacity management by ensuring availability of necessary information from IMs and KPIs to analyse the functioning of capacity management.
  • Available to react upon request of RUs and IMs
  • Handle all parts of the capacity management lifecycle.
  • Follow the subsidiarity principle – what can be handled nationally may be solved by national RBs. However, the escalation on internationally relevant issues or disputes should be with the international body at the request of one of the involved parties.

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Author: Nikos Papatolios

Nikos Papatolios is editor of RailFreight.com, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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