Open Access/Liberalization - key figures

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Europe & World – railway policy

Liberalization is a creation of an open railway market. Open Access is a right for a train operator to enter on an existing market and to compete with the incumbent. There is therefore well, on the railway lines referred, two or more competitors providing the same services in the same stations, but not the same price. This is the case for all freight railway services and few passengers transport companies.

Thus it should not be confused with competition FOR the market. In this case, it is assigned a monopoly of service for 10 or 15 years to the company which has made the best offer. This is the case mostly used in Europe for the attribution of regional public transport services.

Why this policy ?
The aim of this policy has been to promote the efficiency and competitiveness of the railways through gradual liberalization. Indeed, according its promoters, most aspects of price and quality are run as ministries or as state administrations, and railways are fettered in their ability to operate as a business. For Europe, the railroads are considered as a central piece of the transport policy regarding the fight against pollution and congestion of cars and trucks on the road. In January 1990 the European Commission (EC) prepared the White Paper Communication on a Community Railway Policy for the Council of Ministers. This was the starting point of an active involvement of the Community in rail policy, where it has been necessary to produce four railway legislative packet and more than 25 years of work to achieve the first tangible results.

Which results today ?
1990-2000. The first sector which was entered to an existing market, since years 90’, was the freight sector, particularly in Germany, UK, Netherlands, Italy and Sweden. Passenger’s traffic has followed the movement of liberalization but in a diversified manner. Since years 90 in UK and in Sweden, later in Germany or in Netherland, many regional networks have been subject to a call for tenders, without awaiting the adoption of the European railway packages. In this case, that's a entry for a market with a monopolist service for a given time, both for railways services and for bus services. This is more practiced in federal countries of north of Europe rather than the south.

2003. The official year where Europe opens the freight market and this concerns mainly many traction companies rather than logistics companies.  The best-known are: ECR, EWS, Europorte, Crossrail, ERS, BoxXpress, ITL, RTC,...

2010. Since this date, the right access on a railway infrastructure can be used only for international passenger traffic. Today, Thello is the only one which uses this opportunity between Venice and Paris and on the Milan-Marseille route. It is thought that Eurostar and, later, Thalys or DB International, will follow the same path to become really independent companies. But there exist more national examples, as shown below, where two or three companies compete on the same line and in the same stations:

2019 or 2023 or…? The last step of the liberalization foreseen by European Union. This concerns the regional traffic where all markets will be submitted obligatorily to call for tenders. In this case, the historical incumbents can no longer valorize their monopolistic situation, what provoques in many countries a big political resistance. Indeed, we enter here on the field of public services and its staff who benefits of specific working conditions. It is the object of a part of the fourth rail package, which is subject to a political ping-pong within the European Commission.

To read : the role of open access in UK