The European Commission has failed to root out anti-competitive behaviour in the rail industry with its latest package of measures, the Rail Freight Group has warned.
However, the RFG said that, even so, it welcomed the 4th Railway Package at it supported the aims of increased competitiveness and efficiency.
The German government has lobbied hard to allow the holding company model of the railway in Germany to be maintained.
The RFG has been pressing for full and complete separation of infrastructure management and train operation in all Member States. The holding company model which would still be permitted creates conditions where anti-competitive behaviour can persist, to the detriment of those trying to offer rail freight services on an open access basis.
Tony Berkeley, chairman of the RFG, has been extremely critical of the German holding company model. Speaking in a personal capacity, he argues that it permits hidden transfer of funds from the infrastructure manager via the holding company to the commercial activities of train operators, placing them in a competitive advantage over their competitors who do not benefit from such aid.
“It allows for subsidised DB companies to buy operators in other member states, unfairly competing with other companies; by a failure to provide full separation between infrastructure managers and railway undertakings, it will allow the confidential IT and other information as well as funding to flow undetected between these companies, again to the detriment of fair competition.”
The RFG highlighted a number of positive measures in the EC packaging – defining the essential functions of infrastructure managers, such as path allocation, traffic management, maintenance, and planning. There is also an enhanced role for the European Safety Agency, aiming to simplify technical and administrative barriers to cross European interoperability.
Maggie Simpson, RFG executive director, said: “The measures announced today will have important benefits for UK companies seeking to grow their business across Europe. It is now up to the Council and European Parliament to demonstrate its independence of national interests and insist on full separation of track and train. Without this rail freight will struggle to prosper, and to fulfil its role at the heart of European logistics.”