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European Commission: February transport infringement main decisions aimed at Austria, Romania and Spain

Single European Rail: Commission requests Romania to impose fair infrastructure charges and ensure the financial sustainability of its infrastructure manager

The European Commission is concerned about the financial equilibrium of the main Romanian infrastructure manager in the years to come. Romania’s rail network is one of the largest in the European Union and charges for freight trains are among the highest in Europe. The rail network incurred significant deficits increasing year on year while larger parts of the network were not maintained in good condition. At the same time, the infrastructure manager lacks the incentives to reduce costs and charges. However, the Single European Railway Area Directive requires Member States to ensure the financial equilibrium of the infrastructure manager with effective incentives to reduce costs and charges. What is more, whilst all main rail corridors of Romania are electrified, diesel pulled trains have to contribute to the financing of electric equipment on the track side at the same level as electric trains. Since the EU directive limits charges to the direct costs of the train service, the Commission asks Romania not to impose such charges on diesel trains.

Commission urges Austria and Spain towards more transparency in its financing for rail

The European Commission is concerned that Austria and Spain should ensure full transparency on the separation of accounts in rail, as it is required by Directive 2012/34/EU. One of the main purposes of the EU rules is to ensure transparency in the use of public funds for public transport services, so that transport service providers may compete on an equal footing to the benefit of end users.

To date, contrary to EU provisions, these two countries do not ensure full transparency in the presentation of the accounts of railway undertakings mainly as far as public funds paid for services under public service obligations are concerned. Keeping transparent accounts is the only way to identify how public money is spent and whether it is used for other purposes then the ones foreseen. Indeed, the current arrangements in Austria and Spain do not exclude that public funds paid as public service obligations dedicated to passenger transport services are used to cross subsidise other transport services.

Since this is contrary to existing EU rules, which aim at establishing an efficient, non-distorted and competitive EU internal market for rail, the Commission sent a reasoned opinion to Austria and Spain. In the absence of a satisfactory response within two months, the Commission may refer them to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

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