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Euro-MPs back new rules to boost rail travel

15 December 2016, 22:52 CET
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Euro-MPs back new rules to boost rail travel

Photo by Sebastian Kasten

(STRASBOURG) - Public contracts to supply domestic passenger rail services in EU Member States will normally have to be put out to tender under new rules backed by the European Parliament on Wednesday.

Under the rules, which also aim to boost investment and development of new commercial services, rail companies can offer services in EU domestic passenger rail markets in two ways:

First, where national authorities award public service contracts to provide passenger rail services, bidding for public service contracts open to all EU rail operators should gradually become the standard procedure for selecting service providers.

These contracts, which Member States use to provide public passenger transport, account for about two thirds of passenger rail services in the EU. Inviting companies to bid for them should sharpen their customer focus and save costs for the taxpayer.

National authorities will also retain the right to award contracts directly, without bidding, but if this method is used it must offer improvements for passengers or cost efficiency gains.

  • Contracts awarded directly would have to include performance requirements (e.g. punctuality and frequency of services, quality of rolling stock and transport capacity).
  • Direct award would be allowed for public service contracts below a certain average annual value or for annual provision of public passenger transport services by rail (€7.5 million or 500,000 km).

Second, any rail company will be able to offer competing commercial services on EU passenger rail markets.

However, to ensure that services which member states want to be supplied under public service contracts continue, member states could restrict a new operator's right of access to certain lines. An objective economic analysis by the national regulator would be needed to determine when open access can be limited.

Potential conflicts of interest would have to be assessed to ensure that infrastructure managers operate impartially, so that all operators have equal access to tracks and stations.

Public service operators would have to comply with social and labour law obligations established by EU law, national law or collective agreements, says the text

Rail companies will be able to offer new commercial services on domestic lines from 14 December 2020. Competitive tendering is to become the general rule for new public service contracts from December 2023, with some exceptions.

Further information, European Parliament

Adopted texts (2013/0028(COD), 2013/0029(COD), 2013/0013(COD)) will soon be available here (14.12.2016)

Background note: 4th railway package

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