Evaluation of bottlenecks

Each actor in rail freight transport market must be able to create a business model embodying the most efficient and effective utilization of available resources as required by customer needs. Furthermore, better integration of rail freight transport into wider logistics chains might better motivate rail operators to meet the shippers’ expectations related to higher levels of reliability and flexibility in cargo supply, shorter lead time, more competitive costs of service provision and better cargo visibility under the transit and at logistics service points.

The analyses carried out under T3.2 have shown a wide range of disparities, gaps and differences in functioning of the national rail freight systems still prevail. These discrepancies have already distorted the intentions set out in the rail liberalization policy, and still hamper its goal attainment.

Most worrying impacts amounted to competitive imbalance in domestic and border-crossing freight markets which derived from the dominant market positions of the state-owned carries as compared to private rail companies.

As the prolonged market hegemony of national incumbents constrains market access for smaller companies and the quality of freight service, it has been considered a highly unintended or even unwanted consequence of rail market reforms which mandates the imminent corrective interventions.

  • The evidence reviewed suggest that interaction between the below six factors might explain the gaps and disparities that still endure between the policy intentions, the national implementation practice and the quality of policy fulfilment
  • Discretionary or even fallacious interpretations of EU legislation intentions by the national regulatory and administrative authorities;
  • Different levels of technical standards, resource endowment, and transparency in the Member State’s transposition of the EU policy regulations into national legal codes;
  • Lack of clarity, precision, clear statement of objectives and upper and lower boundaries of variance in the national implementation practices as compared to policy formulations and prescribed executive instruments;
  • Higher prioritisation of national welfare needs and political preferences than attainment of Single European Rail Area objectives;
  • Shortage of national resources for assessment of the national implementation conformance;
  • Large differences between the different national rail freight markets and infrastructure systems that deter the uniform policy implementation;
  • Varying levels of rail authorities’ institutional maturity, effectiveness and political impartiality, particularly in some new Member States.

In this context, more vigorous enforcement of antitrust and infringement procedures by the four EC institutions, DG Competition, DG MOVE and DG Environment, and DG Enterprise and Industry might send stronger signals to national governments about needs for rapid improvements of compliance quality and removal of implementation gaps. However, since broader use of regulatory instruments might not be sufficient for gap removal, better financial support for rail investments combined with creation of European entities, such as the European Union Agency for Railways for enforcing more uniform implementation practice and controlling the degree of technical conformance are also recommended.

For more information please read the report on ‘Evaluation of bottlenecks’