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CER: The Reform of Serbian Railways in Accordance with European Standards

In a letter sent to Serbian Railways,  Libor Lochman, Executive Director of the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER) states his appreciation for “the initiative for serious thinking on reforms which can solve a number of key aspects of the company and which will, I am sure, have a positive impact on the railway sector in Serbia and in region. When your plans regarding reforms become realized, they will surely and gradually bring your company closer to the railway laws of European Union. In this respect, I think your plan is generally in line with the Directive 21012/34/EU, which is a fundamental rule that treats the basic aspects of the railroad companies, that is, both the infrastructure companies and railway companies, and it foresees the key regulations regarding relationship of these companies and the State, i.e. the Government, and which aims to guarantee the best institutional structure for the single European railway area”.

Having the restructuration plan of Serbian railways analyzed, CER points out that the agreed organizational structure, which implies gradual separation of existing Directorate for infrastructure and transport in different legal entities, is crucial for gradual bringing closer to the EU legislations, emphasizing at the same time that special attention should be paid to the independence of infrastructure manager and its main functions. It is defined in Article 7 of the Directive 2012/34 that “member states shall ensure that essential functions, which define an equal and non discriminatory access to infrastructure, are delegated to the bodies or companies that do not provide any railway transport services.”

Lochman points out that the provisions which envisage that the control company of the Serbian Railways managed to relieve the operator and the infrastructure manager of the debt and they represent positive step which is in line with the European Union regulations, allowing operators and infrastructure managers to consolidate debts on the level of the control company.

“However, the success of railway reform certainly depends on providing the necessary framework conditions outside the company for the key issues, such as obligations that State should take on itself regarding “Serbian Railways” and financing of railway infrastructure. The member states should develop their national railway infrastructure and publish an indicative rail infrastructure development strategy for railway infrastructure, with the aim of meeting the future needs in terms of mobility when it comes to maintenance, restoration and development of infrastructure. This strategy should include a period of at least five years and be renewable, all with the aim to establish a persistent commercial strategy for the companies. In addition, Member States shall ensure that during the period which can not be longer than five years, that in balance sheet of Infrastructure Manager the income from track access charges, surpluses from other commercial activities, non-refunded incomes from private sources and state funding should be balanced with the costs of infrastructure, because guarantees regarding the amount of state funding are of essential importance for persistent and quality management of infrastructure. And finally, the Member States should ensure the conclusion of contracts between competent authorities and infrastructure managers for a period of at least five years”, said  Lochman regarding the State obligations in the process of restructuring of the railway sector in Serbia.

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