Action plan to boost long distance and cross-border passenger rail

The EU Commission has 14.12. presented an Action Plan, that is covering the area of promoting night trains.

>> Read the Back-on-Track comments to the Action Plan (20.1. 2022)

The phrase ‘night train’ is only mentioned four times in the 18 pages document. But anyway many elements goes to improving conditions for night trains. Find also the STEER and KWC report, which is the background document, to which Back-on-Track contributed during 2021.

What about night train services, does the Commission plan specific actions for them?

From a Q&A sheet the Commission answer this question: “This Action Plan aims at boosting long-distance and cross border rail services. As night train services travel long distances and often cross borders, they will benefit in full from the measures foreseen in this Action Plan. The rules on public service obligations set out in Regulation 1370/2007 are relevant for these services as well. In 2022, the Commission will adopt updated Interpretative Guidelines on Regulation 1370/2007 that will include cross-border services.”

We welcome the Action Plan and the publication of the STEER report and look forward to reading and commenting upon them.

Here are some major points from the Action Plan:

Sufficient rolling stock availability

The setting up of new rail services requires large investments in rolling stock, either by railway undertakings, by rolling stock leasing companies or by competent authorities where the service is provided under a PSO.

Although most long-distance cross-border services can be operated commercially, there is a need to kick-start the availability of rolling stock for these services. Public support to the creation of pools of long-distance cross-border rolling stock, or to the mitigation of commercial risks for leasing companies when acquiring and leasing out long-distance cross-border rolling stock, could help generating the desired boost. (Page 7)

To boost the availability of rolling stock, the European Investment Bank (EIB) is now launching the Green Rail Investment Platform to assist investments by both public and private entities in rail projects through existing EIB products and through financial instruments made available by the Commission. (Page 7-8)

For seamless cross-border connections

An integrated Timetabling and Capacity Redesign programme (TTR) effectively allows railway operators to do priority planning for seamless cross-border connections, before completing their planning with national and regional services. This game-changer can make cross-border passenger services in the Union quicker, more frequent and hence more attractive. (Page 11)

Cross-border services often face a disadvantage vis-à-vis domestic services in the competition for scarce capacity. This also affects night trains entering major stations during the morning peak traffic. (Page 10)

Pilot services

The Commission will support rail sector stakeholders and other interested parties when they launch cross-border pilot services. As many key passenger lines will be on the TEN-T Transport Corridors, TEN-T Coordinators will have dedicated responsibilities to develop work plans supporting the development of cross-border rail services on these corridors, notably by proposing strategic investments and by monitoring the performance of rail traffic via operational improvements such as integrated time-tabling and capacity allocation. (…) From 2022, the rail sector will be encouraged to submit proposals for pilot services, either for enhancing existing, or for the establishment of new services. (Page 17)

Track access charges

High and diverse track access charges across borders, notably in terms of mark-ups, are a decisive cost factor and can hinder the setting up of new services, and can hinder to attract new entrants and private investment. (…) The clear objective should be to ensure that mark-ups are only applied where the market can bear them and where it does not damage rail’s competitiveness.

The Commission will:

– provide guidelines in 2023 for setting track access charges which support and encourage the development of long-distance and cross-border passenger services. (Page 12)

Compare and buy rail tickets

It must become as easy and convenient for passengers to compare and buy rail tickets as it is for other transport modes, in a single transaction and using state-of-the-art technology. Passengers needing to connect between trains should be confident that they arrive in time or, failing that, that they will be provided with the necessary assistance to reach their destination.

Ticket vendors and railway undertakings should be able to offer seats based on a level playing field, including well in advance of the actual train journey. Railway companies and ticket vendors should be able to offer attractive tickets without undue market barriers when accessing existing ticket vending channels, ticket and fare data as well as data and operations in reservation systems. (Page 12-13)

Rail Passenger Rights

To make cross-border train travel attractive, passenger also need to be protected throughout the journey. The new Rail Passenger Rights Regulation adopted in April 2021, introduced for the first time an obligation to offer through-tickets from 7 June 2023, but on a rather limited basis . However, the limited obligation to offer them and the lack of existing market offer of throughtickets limits the protection of passengers, and thus reduces the attractiveness of rail. It is essential that passengers combining several trains into one journey are sure that they will not be stranded if one of the trains is late, regardless of whether the tickets were sold as a throughticket or as separate contracts. A solution could be to ensure at least that the passengers travelling on combined separate tickets can continue their journey in case of missed connections under certain conditions. The Commission will therefore address the issue of journey continuation in case of delays as part of the initiative on multimodal digital mobility services.

The Commission will:

– propose a Regulation, to be adopted by the end of 2022, on multimodal digital mobility services to enhance data exchange between mobility providers and facilitate the conclusion of fair commercial agreements among railway undertakings and with thirdparty ticket sellers, including journey continuation and protection in case of missed connections for passengers travelling on combined separate tickets;

– monitor the compliance with the new Rail Passenger Rights Regulation, once it becomes applicable in June 2023. (Pages 13-14)

A level playing field with other transport modes

The Commission has already made proposals to enable competition on equal footing among different modes. With the Fit for 55 package presented on 14 July 2021, the Commission has put forward an ambitious set of proposals to align economic incentives with climate, social and environmental objectives, while recognising differences in the global and competition context under which different modes of transport operate. This includes proposed changes to emission trading and to the energy taxation framework.

The Commission will assess the need for an EU-wide exemption of international rail tickets from VAT to significantly reduce the cost to rail passengers. (…) In the context of the review of the Air Services Regulation, the Commission is assessing the possibilities and the criteria, under which EU countries may limit air traffic on some routes if more sustainable modes offering an equivalent level of service exist, without undermining Single Market principles. (Page 14-15)

PSO – regulation

For connections or networks where the market is not (yet) able or willing to offer services which are deemed necessary for connectivity or otherwise desirable for society, competent authorities can use a public service obligation (PSO) and award public service contracts (PSC) to rail operators in compliance with Regulation (EU) 1370/2007 on public transport services by rail and by road (‘the Land PSO Regulation’). PSOs can be imposed only when open access operators do not provide the services at the level and quality deemed necessary by the competent authorities. (Page 4)

The Commission will:

– publish interpretative guidelines in 2022 for applying the Land PSO Regulation, including to long-distance and cross-border rail passenger services and to promote and support the development of sustainable multimodal land transport services. (Page 16)

>> Main page, press release and related sectors

>> New Action Plan: boosting long-distance and cross-border passenger rail

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