Network access dispute involving SNCF Reseau resolved favouring complainants
With a decision published on 6 September, the Autorité de Régulation des Transports (ART) resolved a dispute concerning “the technical conditions and operations for access to the railway network”. The French authority decided in favour of rail freight operators who requested better and fairer network access conditions by SNCF Resau, the french rail infrastructure manager.
The dispute began in February 2021, when rail freight operators like Captrain France, T3M, Europorte and Régiorail approached ART and requested to intervene and change the procedures for train path allocation, the management and use of reserved infrastructure capacities by SNCF Réseau to carry out work and the principles and procedures for compensation and complaints.
As ART stated, the authority satisfied around two-thirds of rail freight operators’ requests. At the same time, the combined transport association UIRR urged the French National Combined Transport Group (GNTC) to closely monitor the decisions’ implementation.
The decisions which ART concluded have a binding character for SNCF Reseau, mentioned by the French authority as ‘injunctions’. Their aim is to facilitate the French IM’s seamless and transparent operations and decision-making processes, which will also result in a better functioning railway network.
Specifically, they concern four points: point one is improving transparency regarding capacity allocation. SNCF Reseau should follow “certain criteria and processes provided for in the network reference document, in connection with the different stages of the path allocation procedure, and communicate all needed information to rail operators when it comes to reserving capacity for infrastructure works.”
Secondly, ART will enable penalty mechanisms to “encourage the French IM to respect certain deadlines set in the network reference document or to avoid prejudicial situations access to the network.” Thirdly, ART will establish new standards and indicators to monitor SNCF Reseau’s performance as an infrastructure manager. Lastly, it will also “modify the principles and procedures for compensating rail operators” when losing money due to SNCF reseau’s actions and decisions.