Liberalisation of passenger transport by rail: making haste slowly is not “reasonable”

16 mars 2014 | Actualités du ferroviaire, Communiqués de presse

A start to the liberalisation of passenger transport by rail in 2027, is not “reasonable”, to quote the President of the Rhône-Alpes Regional Authority in an article in the newspaper “Les Echos”. AFRA (L’Association française du rail) reiterates that it has already proposed the launch of pilot projects as soon as possible to regions that are willing to do so, and thus avoid improvisation in 2019, the perfectly reasonable deadline contained in current European legislation.

Bernard Soulage, Vice-President of the Rhone-Alpes Regional Authority wrote an article for “Les Echos” on February 7,2014 entitled “Prerequisites for competition in rail markets”.
AFRA fully shares many of his views. It considers that the liberalisation of regional rail markets is a powerful trend throughout Europe, that it is “perfectly possible to organise in the public interest” and that ”local politicians, mayors and presidents of conurbations know full well how to organise liberalised public services”. It also agrees with the “need for a smooth transition” but cannot understand the “making haste slowly” approach that Bernard Soulage advocates in the implementation of European legislation in France.
AFRA members cannot accept his proposal that current contracts with the SNCF should be extended for an eight-year period in 2019, thus effectively postponing until 2027 the nationwide launch of competitive tenders for rail passenger franchises.
The principle of outsourcing public service contracts is already enshrined in European regulation 1370/2007, which requires member states to present a progress report on this issue to the European Commission by June 2015 at the latest.
AFRA does not consider that the “making haste slowly” approach advocated by Bernard Soulage is “reasonable”, inasmuch as the aim of gradual liberalisation is to enable contracting authorities to exert tighter control over public spending, increase services, re-open lines condemned to closure and make a lasting impact on modal transfer. By empowering its Länder since 1994, Germany has achieved:
–     a regular reduction in public contributions per train/km to rail franchises;
–     a 28% increase in regional rail passenger services measured in train/ km;
–     a 68% increase in regional rail traffic by all train operators, including French operators.
AFRA considers, like Bernard Soulage, that the liberalisation of public transport services by rail should be properly organised. The association considers that it is therefore “reasonable” to start by launching some pilot projects without further delay. Its members announced at a press conference on January 13, 2014 that they were ready and able to support the efforts of those regions that are willing, as they are, to contribute to “sustainable regional development” by optimising the operation of regional (TET) and regional express (TER) passenger services by rail.
In this spirit, the alternative train operators expect forthcoming rail reform legislation to lift the regulatory obstacles to the liberalisation of passenger transport by rail and clear the ground for the first invitations to tender no later than the end of 2014.
L’Association Française du Rail (AFRA)
Founded in March 2009, AFRA (l’Association Française du Rail) brings together railway companies, which consider that the French market for freight and passenger transport will only be able to develop fully within an open, competitive and regulated market.
AFRA currently has the following railway companies with a passenger transport business among its members: Arriva, Transdev, CFTA, Thello and Trenitalia.

Contact: Jacques Malécot,
AFRA  Chief Executive.
Tel:  +(33) 6 27 22 83 44
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