Positions 18 Sep 2012

CER Position paper on Domestic Passenger Market Opening in the Context of the 4 RP

CER supports market liberalisation measures as a principle. CER believes that introducing competition and market mechanisms generally contributes to increasing quality and productivity. In this context, non-discriminatory and transparent access to the European railway network has to be guaranteed. At the same time, CER wishes to stress that the opening of domestic passenger transport to competition must be adopted in a consistent manner in order to promote the integration of railway markets as well as fair competition between railway undertakings.

In this context, experience has shown that liberalisation has contributed to a positive development of railway services in a number of countries. At the same time the development in other EU member states has shown that market opening alone is not sufficient and can, in some extreme cases, lead to serious problems. It is important to recall that the White Paper of 2001 rightly listed a number of accompanying conditions (infrastructure financing; establishing a level playing field between modes; cancellation of historic debts; proper compensation for public service obligations) for a sound rail development. These requirements of the White Paper have only partly been followed by sufficiently binding legislation and in many cases there has been a lack of appropriate political action and financing over the last 10 years. 

It is against this background that CER believes that domestic passenger traffic liberalisation has to be implemented in a context where infrastructure and public service contracts are adequately financed while respecting the economic equilibrium of such contracts in accordance with existing EU legal requirements and without preventing the development of competition on the market. There are significant variations in the current market structures and performances of national railway systems across European Member States. This is in particular the case with regards to financial means which play a very important role regarding the question of market opening.

In order to keep strengthening the position of the railways vis-à-vis other transport modes, a deeper integration of the rail transport market is necessary. This can only be achieved by establishing a fair level playing field of technical, economic and social conditions between all member states and all railway undertakings. This has to be realised. As basic measures, the economic, technical, and social access conditions should be aligned across Member States.

Among others, this firstly refers to the following:

  • A strong, independent and effective regulator is established and ensures effective market rules are in place;
  • Critical mass of harmonisation of technical standards and provisions including certification and authorisation procedures has been achieved for both rolling stock and infrastructure;
  • Social conditions are addressed;
  • Financial architecture and economies of rail systems across the European Union has been stabilised.

The alignment of these basic measures should be continuously monitored by the Commission.

Lastly, it is also important to ensure that future domestic market opening considers the already achieved domestic market openings through regulated open access and does not force these to be substantially modified.