April 19 2016

European Commission broadens rail infrastructure access

The European Commission will introduce new rules designed to support fairer conditions and foster greater access to rail infrastructure for new train services from December.

The additional regulations are expected to tap into opportunities in rail infrastructure, and the European Commission believes these new rules will create rail jobs and attract investment, making the market competitive for many years to come.

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Access to rail infrastructure

In early April, the European Commission established the new rules in the Commission Implementing Regulation, which will come into effect later this year in December.

The rules are intended to help operators gain access to the rail network, broadening the market potential for those seeking to operate new services.

The decision comes at a time when concerns about EU rail markets being ‘characterised’ by select dominant operators is mounting. These strong influences reportedly utilise their close ties with infrastructure managers, enabling them to block access to infrastructure through long-term framework and track ingress agreements. In some cases, these arrangements have run for five or more years.

Under the new rules, common criteria has been developed for revising or concluding agreements should there be conflicting requests. Likewise, interested parties must be made aware of available capacity and any options to conclude contracts. Infrastructure managers are also obligated to check frequently whether their clients continue to require specific paths for the duration of work on the line.

In these situations, the European Commission’s new regulations will offer a greater chance for less prominent operators wishing to provide new services, enabling access to the network, including important lines.

Violeta Bulc, European Commissioner for Transport, explains:

“Today's adoption is a step in the right direction in order to make railways more efficient in Europe.

“The new framework agreements will give new entrants better and fairer access to the rail infrastructure, offering them additional visibility and thereby fostering investments. These new agreements will also optimise the use of the rail infrastructure in Europe.”

What does it mean for the rail sector?

The European Commission believes this greater access to rail infrastructure will be encouraging to operators looking to run new services, thereby developing a necessity for skilled employees to carry out construction, operational and maintenance work as they introduce projects.

A more ‘open’ network will also attract investment opportunities, contributing to a more competitive rail market which should prompt businesses to adapt to changing demand from passengers and shipping companies using the rail network.

While we won’t see these changes affecting rail infrastructure until later in 2016, the regulations introduced this month could well support progress in the sector. The move away from monopolisation is a positive step towards an inclusive network that supports new projects and innovation. As operators introduce services, we can expect to see job creation and consequently new skills and thinking entering the rail workforce - helping to make the sector in the UK more robust against challenges in the future.

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For more information on jobs in the rail sector, visit the   railway recruitment page.


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