Council of UE not in favour of further separation between infrastructure managers and railway undertakings


Council of the European Union adopted its first-reading position on single European railway area directive, which is the recast merging and amending the three directives of the “first railway package” on the development of European railways.
Whilst agreeing with the objective of the recast proposal, the Council considers a number of its provisions to be too far-reaching or not clear and simple enough. It therefore modified the Commission’s proposal, and in particular its key parts, namely the conditions of access by railway undertakings to service facilities; the financing of railway infrastructures and charging for their use; and the functions of the regulatory body supervising the railway market.
While supporting the principle of charges reflecting the direct costs incurred by infrastructure managers, the Council removed a list of elements that the Commission proposed to exclude from the calculation of the direct costs. In addition, the Council introduced the possibility for member states to gradually adapt to the common calculation methodology.
Granting a temporary reduction of the infrastructure charge for trains equipped with the European train control system (ETCS) should be optional and not compulsory, as advocated by the Commission and the European Parliament.
In contrast to the Commission and the European Parliament, the Council considers that the development strategy to be published by infrastructure managers only needs to be indicative and that no fixed deadline should be set for ensuring that managers’ accounts are balanced.
While the European Parliament wants to introduce specific separation requirements for IT and staff management and calls upon the Commission to draw up a new legislative proposal for complete separation between infrastructure managers and railway undertakings, the Council is not in favour of further separation requirements and is of the opinion that the issue of a general separation should not be tackled in this directive.
Initial technical discussions with the European Parliament have already started in order to seek agreement on a final text to be adopted jointly by both institutions at second reading.