Fair and enforceable competition rules are key to a Single European Railway Area

Separate accounting for railway undertakings and rail network managers, non-discriminatory access to rail paths and service facilities and transparent pricing must be guaranteed by independent national rail regulators, said the Transport Committee in its second reading vote on the “rail recast” reform plans on 31 May. Discussion continues with the Council on key parts of the recast directive, but most Transport Committee MEPs seemed confident, in the debate on 30 May, that satisfactory final compromises will be reached and tabled for a plenary vote in July.

Although EU member states have shown “little ambition” to clarify and tighten up the competition rules laid down in the first EU railway package, Parliament’s negotiating team led, by Debora Serracchiani is standing by the principle of an open EU rail market, in informal negotiations with the Council Presidency. “For the further construction of a single European railway area, Parliament needs to hold on to its ambitions”, Ms Serracchiani believes.

Most of Parliament’s initial improvements to the Commission’s recast proposal were reiterated in the second reading amendments, approved by a large majority of Transport Committee MEPs (35 votes in favour, 6 against and 1 abstention). These include separating and monitoring accounts to ensure that railway undertakings that are structurally – or historically – linked to the infrastructure manager (integrated model), do not gain an unfair advantage over competitors.

Conditions and prices for path allocation and access to rail-related services should be based on transparent calculations and include incentives to reduce noise and equip trains with European train control systems, say MEPs. To enable sound planning of infrastructure investment, meeting the needs of the entire sector, MEPs advocate financing contracts of at least 5 years, to be drawn up by public funding authorities.

But the “alpha and omega” of rail reform will be the timely establishment of a network of strong and independent national regulators to supervise the market functioning and settle complaints by railway undertakings, said rapporteur Werner Kuhn.  In the long run, a European regulator should be put in place, argued Ms Serracchiani.

Source : http://www.europarl.europa.eu

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